I am delighted to be here. The technologies on exhibit today represent one very promising avenue for meeting our growing energy needs while maintaining good stewardship of the environment.
As many of you know, U.S. highway transportation is over 97 percent dependent on petroleum for its energy, with about one-quarter consumed by heavy-duty vehicles. Over half of our petroleum is imported, which impacts our security and balance of payments deficit. Without significant technology development, our Department is forecasting that heavy truck petroleum use will increase by 40 percent by 2020 and will double by 2050 relative to today.
Because so much of our commerce is dependent on trucks—which haul more than 65 percent of the freight tonnage transported in the United States—it is essential that we make this sector as efficient as we possibly can. And that is exactly what the 21st Century Truck Partnership is committed to doing. If the technologies currently being researched can reach commercial maturity and market acceptance, we can increase the fuel economy of the best new long-haul trucks by more than 50 percent in the next fifteen years.
This Partnership includes all the key participants, in both the public and private sectors. On the government side, it includes our own Department of Energy, as well as the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Defense—represented by the U.S. Army. The DOE has the primary mission for energy efficiency, whereas the DOT has a key role in safety, the EPA has the role of reducing emissions, and the DOD seeks to align key technologies in the commercial and military sectors.
The power in this unique partnership is that it contains the necessary elements to move advanced concepts from basic research and development, through field-testing of prototypes, to final deployment throughout the country.
The vehicles you see here today encompass a wide range of the technologies that are being developed. They represent technologies that the Partnership has moved toward commercialization as well as those that are still in the research laboratory.
Ultimately, we seek safe, secure, and environmentally friendly trucks and buses that use sustainable and self-sufficient energy sources to enhance America’s global competitiveness. To see that these technologies are being pursued as aggressively as possible, DOE announced in February the selection of twelve projects, worth $175 million, that are designed to increase the energy efficiency of passenger and commercial vehicles while maintaining low emissions. The industry participants are full partners in this effort, putting forth almost $90 million in cost sharing.
The progress we are making in heavy truck technology under the 21st Century Truck Partnership will provide the United States with significant efficiency and safety benefits, and cleaner air, while helping to maintain America’s international competitiveness in this key industry sector.
In fact, we believe the inherent efficiency of diesel is something that needs to be employed in the cars and light duty trucks that most Americans drive. The challenge has been to make diesels as clean, or nearly as clean, as gasoline engines. Cleaner diesels and cleaner fuels go hand-in-hand, so we have taken the first step in requiring cleaner, low sulfur fuels for a new generation of clean diesel engines. As the President said a few weeks ago, “Clean diesel technology will allow consumers to travel much farther on each gallon of fuel, without the smoke and pollution of past diesel engines.” He added that, “we have proposed $2.5 billion over 10 years in tax credits that will encourage consumers to buy energy-efficient hybrid cars and trucks, and we need to expand these incentives to include clean diesel vehicles as well.” So we are working to make that proposal part of the comprehensive energy bill that is now being crafted in the Congress.
I have been meeting with leaders from the House and Senate, and they are hopeful that we can produce an energy bill that will enhance America’s energy security, reduce pollution, and address the challenge of greenhouse gas emissions.
But even as we move toward getting essential energy legislation passed, our Department will continue to sponsor effective partnerships such as this. Through the 21st Truck Partnership, and similar initiatives, our Department is expanding the use of clean diesel, and helping to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, improve energy efficiency, and develop new, environmentally friendly fuels to power our economy in the 21st century.
Media contact: Chris Kielich, 202/586-5806