Maintaining fuel efficiency regulations at the federal level for heavy-duty trucking — rather than relying on a patchwork of state-by-state regulations — should be a priority for lawmakers preparing to introduce climate change legislation, according to truck engine maker Cummins [NYSE: CMI] .
The Columbus, Indiana-based manufacturer was on a panel of industry players testifying at a Capitol Hill hearing on transitioning the U.S. economy to net zero greenhouse gas pollution by 2050, with prospects for moving the transportation sector toward zero- or low-carbon fuels as part of the plan.
“Having predictability around a national regulatory policy is very important,” said Wayne Eckerle, Cummins’ Vice President of Research and Technology. “Our product development cycle is on the order of three to six years, so as we do that work, we have an eye to where we have to be and when, which drives our investment. [Having] a national regulation that we understand will allow us to tailor our investments appropriately and hit [climate change] goals more efficiently.”
The Oct. 23 hearing was part of a series of hearings held by the Democrat-led U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee on climate change legislation.
“With record heat waves, wildfires, flooding and drought occurring more and more frequently in every region of the country, it is clear to the American people that now is the time for Congress and the federal government to act to address the issue of climate change,” said Energy subcommittee Chairman Bobby Rush, D-Illinois, when the series of hearings was announced in July.
Democrats have been pushing for regulations tightening emissions restrictions and eliminating fossil fuels, whereas Republicans’ focus has been more on promoting incentives for companies to reduce emissions on their own.
“The notion of 100% clean energy for our transportation networks is a very noble goal, but it’s a mischaracterization of me and my Republican colleagues that we don’t support green energy initiatives,” Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, said during the hearing. “We simply don’t believe you can ground our economy to a standstill in order to get there. You have to have an economy that will support market-driven solutions to accomplish these things.”
In his testimony, Eckerle said it’s possible to use technology to substitute for diesel in order to approach zero-carbon goals. “But in some applications, the best path forward is to focus on making diesel as clean and efficient as possible.” Eckerle testified that there are 4.9 million diesel trucks in the U.S. equipped with the latest clean-fuel technology, which is 36% of all registered class 3-8 commercial trucks.
Timothy Blubaugh, vice president of the Truck & Engine Manufacturers Association, pointed out that with nearly half the truck fleet still unequipped with engines that comply with emissions standards that took effect in 2010, the industry can achieve significant emissions reductions without more stringent and costly federal standards. “The benefits of turning the fleet over to those new cleanest diesel engines would be tremendous. If it’s a truck that was 30 years old, the benefits would be dramatic. If 15 years old, less dramatic but still a huge improvement.”
Also on the panel arguing for a national climate strategy was Fred Felleman, commissioner of the Port of Seattle.
“If we don’t have a national policy and a commitment to doing this, it all falls apart,” Felleman told lawmakers. “If you look at our greatest competitor to the north, Canada has a national policy to move freight across the country – they’re serving Chicago at a cheaper cost than we are at Port of Seattle, because they have a unified national policy to do that.”