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Obama shifts new fuel-saving policy into gear

The president on Tuesday asked two government agencies to develop a plan to reduce carbon emissions, continuing with his promise of climate action this year.
An oil tanker drives down a road near Watford City, North Dakota.
An oil tanker drives down a road near Watford City, North Dakota.

President Obama on Tuesday requested two government agencies develop a plan to increase fuel efficiency for heavy-duty trucks, a key component of his Climate Action Plan to reduce carbon emissions.

He directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation create a proposal that will address greenhouse gas standards within a year, and complete that plan by March 2016.

"The goal we're setting is ambitious," Obama said on Tuesday during a speech at a distribution center in Upper Marlboro, Md. "Anybody who had dire predictions for the auto industry said we couldn't do it...every time they say that, they're proven wrong."

"You can't bet against American workers or American industry. You can't bet against America because we know how to do this," he added.

These "heavy-duty vehicles" represented 4% of registered vehicles, but accounted for about 25% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2010, according to the White House. They are currently the second-largest source of on-road fuel use, after passenger cars and light trucks.

Obama's first round of standards was finalized in September 2011, and is projected to save 530 million barrels of oil and an estimated $50 billion in fuel costs.

The president outlined an agenda to make the country a magnet for middle-class jobs and business investment during his State of the Union address last month. He pledged to drive down oil imports, and called on Congress to put more people to work by building fuel stations that shift more vehicles from foreign oil to American natural gas.

"The shift to a cleaner energy economy won't happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way. But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children's children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say, 'Yes, we did,'" he said in his speech.

In Obama's Climate Action Plan, which he released last June, he committed to developing new fuel efficiency standards to save families money at the pump and further reduce reliance on foreign oil.

The president is also partnering with private-sector leaders to expand advanced vehicles. Obama asked Congress to increase fuel choices for American drivers, a step aimed to help enhance energy security, cut carbon pollution, save money, and support manufacturing innovation.

Secretary of State John Kerry recently described climate change as a present danger, and "the world's most fearsome weapon of mass destruction."