Obama’s Call for Fuel Efficient Trucks

Obama Calls for Higher Fuel Efficient Trucks a March 14, 2014| Sam Burlum | Diesel EnginesEmissions Standards Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column Published  by The Alternative Press.com, www.SamBurlum.com, and http://www.Truthabouttrucking.com

Both in his State of the Union Address and at a speech in which he gave in Upper Marlboro, Md., the President has called for higher fuel economy standards for heavy duty and medium duty trucks.  This initiative will work in parallel with the cause to reduce harmful vehicle emissions which have a negative impact on air quality, which are already in place.  The President will push for the tougher standards by 2016.  Both the EPA and the DOT are leading this initiative and will be developing and issuing a Notice for Proposed Rulemaking on this subject matter, with more stringent policy to be drafted by 2016 and instituted 2014 to 2018.

The proposed plan discusses the implementation of innovation and the wider spread use of “green fuels” such as natural gas.  Included in the conversation are industry leaders such as the engine manufacturers, fortune 500 fleet operators, and representatives of the regulators themselves.  But what about the opinions of the many who make up the lower rungs which consist of many big rig owner-operators, family owned transportation and shipping providers, and smaller commercial fleet owners?  And what kind of “innovation” will be accepted as a part of this ongoing agenda?  Will grass roots innovation be considered, or will the market be dictated to again by a group of over-zealous regulatory actions?

We have seen what happened with the Stop the Soot program, part of the National Diesel Retrofit Program, and by enforcement actions lead by CARB in recent regulatory enforcement action; that has forced many owner-operators and smaller fleets to call it a day, just to throw in the towel and close down their operations.  The main complaint of many (as we interviewed fleet owners in our War on Trucking Series) is that they are forced to adopt one technologyor purchase a new truck, which falls outside their scope of their budget; or face big penalties and fines.  For most the cost to keep up with regulatory burdens are just too much to bear, forcing them off the road and to look for work and opportunity elsewhere.

So the question becomes, “Will the DOT and EPA finally consider the freedom for the smaller fleet operator to adopt innovation they feel is the best fit for their needs and that will work for their budget, or will this initiative be another blow to the already fragile landscape that makes up the fight between owner-operators and large national carriers?” The Notice for Proposed Rulemaking will allow for public commentary to be considered, which usually is issued threw a Request for Information followed by a series of public hearings.  Fleet organizations, technology providers, and owner-operators themselves have been calling for a higher level of transparency when it comes to such proposals, making it easier for the public to offer their ideas and suggestions to be heard.  Usually RFI’s or RFP’s are usually buried deep in government agency websites, and most hearings are not conducted in an area where the public can easily access them.

Smaller fleets and owner-operators have suggested for multiple meetings to be held in areas where statistics will demonstrate a high rate of truck traffic flow, so they have the ability to attend such hearings without giving up their ability to continue to still make a living.  Having the freedom to make a consumer choice is still an ongoing concern for many who have researched their own solutions to meeting these standards.  Many fleets across the nation have beta tested products and practices, with positive results only to be told that they cannot use these innovations because they are not on “the list.”  “The List” refers to the approved list of products the EPA has deemed as the standard and will be the products in which receive grant funding, that are aligned with federal grant funding and have been through tens of millions of dollars in third party testing approved and funded by the EPA.

This practice has completely shunned out any new available innovation that could be considered as a possible solution to fuel economy and emissions reduction enforcement action.  These practices are contradict the actual initiative, and many claim to be a program that continues to help large fleets and manufacturers grow while forcing out the competition of start-up innovation and owner-operator fleets from the market place.  In a tough fragile economy, it would be the “win-win-win” to allow for start-up innovation, owner-operators and smaller fleet operations, to have the ability to partner up and go toe to toe with the big boys in the room.  Such free market competition will spur action for best and most cost effective innovation to prevail, or even a number of technologies to be a better consideration than what are currently offered on “the list.”  Having the free market to provide innovation versus the private-public partnership model, will allow for the consumer and for the tax payer to determine what is the best answer to the situation, since they are the ones at the end of the day who pay the price for these of types of policies that are created.  This type of resolve would also lessen the need for regulatory enforcement action which levies heavily against smaller fleet operators, since they usually don’t have the resources to comply.

The best part about the consideration for other innovation: jobs.  Someone has to make the product.  What a better place but to make that product here in the United States, where the product will be demanded by the market.  With innovation kept under the thumb of a chosen winner’s and loser’s list, we are putting a lid on much anticipated job creation. Smaller firms who offer innovation and technology usually produce their product not far from their founding roots of their home community.  The usually also provide a technical service model that accompanies their product, which assures local service jobs to take hold. Most products found on “the list” do not utilize this model and are manufactured abroad. They are usually only offered through established distribution channels in areas that already have an existing employment base.  This provides for no new job creation.

The “win-win-win” is for new innovation and technology to be considered in this next round of regulatory initiatives; fleets will have a wider scope of available options to become compliant; more older trucks are retrofitted with something better than nothing solution; owner-operators and smaller fleets can stay in business; fuel economy and environmental goals would be met; the price of innovation will drop; and jobs will be saved and created in the process.  That is a big win for the tax payer who is already burdened with the cost of running programs which are sponsored by DOT and the EPA.

And one last dynamic that needs to be considered…how will tax reform affect some of these initiatives?  Usually most of the funding for “green fleet” projects have always come from grants and project money that was released and allocated by regulatory agencies.  Within the proposed Tax Reform Bill, proposed by Chairman David Camp, of the Ways and Means Committee, House of Representatives, released yesterday a working draft of Comprehensive Tax Code Reform; references terms and content that provide “green fleet” tax credits. Content aimed to provide incentive to early adopters of innovation and provide research and development credits for smaller innovators was proposed to both the Ways and Means in the House and the Senate Finance Committee by working groups, constituents, and industry advocates.  Will this finally open the log jam or just further the debate between the people and their representatives and/or regulatory agencies and the White House on this subject matter.

Regardless of what side of the debate you are on, there is no denying that all of these actions, initiatives, and policies affect us every time we go to the grocery store to purchase our family’s needs.  Everything in the store was delivered by a truck, and this is reflected as a part of the prices on the shelf, and these are costs that you pay when check out an item at the register.  You as the consumer and as a taxpayer will have to decide how much are you willing to pay.

You can find more about the White House’s Plan on this subject matter by clicking the link:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/02/18/fact-sheet-opportunity-all-improving-fuel-efficiency-american-trucks-bol

You can also chime in on the conversation by visiting a discussion and commentary at: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/truthabouttrucking/2014/02/27/open-forum-increase-fuel-efficiency-standards-nprm

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

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What the Frack?

What the Frack aWritten by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column Published by The Alternative Press.com, www.SamBurum.com, and Natural Awakenings Magazine-Milwaukee.

The argument and debate of fracking is still alive and well.  Head of one of the largest multinational oil and gas companies in the world, Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson who was one of the most outspoken industry leaders on the practice of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, joined a lawsuit to stop construction of facilities that are common place to a fracking operation near his homestead in Texas.  I find that interesting since Exxon Mobil is one of the leading companies in the oil and gas industry who has adopted the practice of fracking which is a practice that most associate the recent resurgence and rise of the energy industry in America.  So I have to ask “what the frack?”

Fracking has become not just a hot bed topic pitting public policy against large oil and gas companies who look to capitalize on their investment into technology which has allowed fracking to be a viable way to mine oil and gas from deep underground in hard to extract places such as from shale, sandstones, and lime stones.  The economic boom that fracking has driven even has had an effect on local communities, neighbor fighting with neighbor, over individuals who wish to cash in on their unearthed treasurer against those who value the importance of environmental preservation of the most precious natural resource that is used as a part of the practice and effected by the very practice, water.

As you drive through New York’s Sullivan County, beyond the stretch of road known as Hawk’s Nest, there are the visual reminders that the argument is alive and well.  Signs that read “No Fracking” inside a circle with a strike threw it are present along the mouths of driveways of private properties which line Route 97, a major thoroughfare that runs along the Delaware River, just outside the Port Jervis, New York area.  In opposite fashion, are the outpost and sight of testing rigs, survey teams, and oil and gas pipeline workers ready to make hey even when the sun is not shining.  This is also a common sight in Bainbridge, New York, in the county of Chenango, which is a town located along the Susquehanna River.  Both regions are at the center of debate for they contain two very valuable natural resources; natural gas energy deposits and fresh clean drinking water.

New York Governor Cuomo has come under fire for not taking a final position on the matter.  New York State has been forced to address the issue, as pro-fracking landowners filed suit in February 2014, against the Governor’s office, requesting the state to wrap up its official study it began in 2008 under the supervision of the Department of Environmental Conservation.  The Department of Health began its own study in 2012 and has not yet released its findings about concerns that address the practices effect on clean drinking water.  The complaint named both departments accountable in their argument.

In 2013 NJ Governor Chris Christie vetoed legislation that was aimed to ban the processing and disposal of left over fracking material in New Jersey.  Environmental Activist gathered in protest before the statehouse to voice their displeasure of the Governor’s action not to further protect New Jersey from the toxic material.  This created a major outcry from environmental advocacy groups who have already seen New Jersey become a state who holds the record for having the most environmental superfund sites in the nation. Opponents of the fracking practice note that there are no current technologies which are currently available to refine the waste product that separates the chemicals from the fresh water base used as a part of the fracking process.

In 2011 and 2012, the New Jersey Legislature passed bills on the fracking practice, later conditionally vetoed by Governor Chris Christie who also shot down legislation that would ban the overall fracking practice on New Jersey soil citing that there is no available land to frack in New Jersey.  This would face great debate again in 2013-2014.

Later Larry Ragonese, spokesman for the New Jersey, Department of Environmental Protection would later share that, “there in fact might be minute areas where under the Utica shale that might contain significant deposits of natural gas.  These deposits are to known to be found mainly under the land in Upper Passaic County, Sussex County and Warren County; counties which rely on agriculture tourism for the majority of their local seasonal revenue.”   These are also counties that supply much of the basin that makes up the fresh water supply that is managed by the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corporation; an authority responsible for managing and delivering fresh drinking water to selected metro areas of the State.

On a national stage, land owners who wish to preserve the natural beauty and natural resources that either lye underground of their property and/or under neighboring properties have utilized every mechanism available to deter others from the practice.  From lawsuits and temporary injunctions and restraining orders to large protest and acts of civil disobedience, opponents to franking have made their voice well known.

David Pringle, Campaign Director for the Clean Water Action, New Jersey Chapter, (formally the New Jersey Environmental Federation); has been on the forefront of this National Debate adding, “Fracking is not a bridge to the future, it’s a direction off the cliff. Most people think that fracking is a cleaner alternative than coal, when in fact studies show otherwise.”

“Fossil fuels harvested from fracking are massive contributors to climate change.  There is the heightened concern of how to handle and treat all of the waste water that is by-product of the fracking process.  Sites in which fracking has occurred, have become hazmat waste sites, playing host to now contaminated water, and introduces the new exposure of toxins to humans that may otherwise we would not have exposure to.  The fracking process brings these toxins to the surface such as radon, carcinogens, heavy metals, and other materials which are radioactive in nature and mix with water around with these sites,” continued Pringle.

“Along with these concerns, the fracking process has shown to contribute to earthquake activity where it did not formally exist.  We now have multiple issues to tackle with fracking: we have a drinking water issue, a public safety issue, and an issue that affects the weather, especially in the northeast where we experienced more super storm activity.”

And it is so, a riddle still unanswered, to frack or not to frack, is the question.  We find it a bit ironic that the CEO of the world’s third largest multi-national by revenue, who enjoys a lifestyle that is a result of a practice in which his company profits from, is okay with the practice of fracking, as long as it is not in his back yard.  Sometimes it is not all that hard to understand.  In many cases in the past in the energy and power industry, industry has won in many cases over the ideals of environmental preservation.

Many smaller companies have blossomed as a result of the practice becoming standard in states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, and North Dakota, are aiding in local and regional job creation.  The argument propels beyond just the debate about the production and effects underground but also how it will affect those who work above it.  It’s not just the boom of smaller energy and drilling firms that have found a niche in the new black gold rush, but also all of the supporting businesses that are necessary to support the practice, such as transportation of the water and brine mixture, concrete for all of the drilling and mining pads, real estate to supply housing for transient workers, food and medical services, and other community amenities that accompany a growing community.  No one wants to lay claim to say that you have to put an end to job creation in an era when our nation faces some of its highest unemployment numbers in history.

Mr. Pringle offered this, “We need to recognize and execute renewables which are better for the economy, since they have been proven to create jobs and mitigate the climate crisis. Major moves such as the passing of S1041 which cites the ban on waste water disposal from fracking in New Jersey is a step in the right direction.  We are looking forward to its support and passing in the Assembly.”

The Bill, S1041, was passed in the NJ State Senate, with a 33-5 vote, on May 12, 2014; which prohibits the disposal of fracking waste in the Garden State.  Hopes are high for the identical sister Bill in (Bill # A2108) to pass in the State Assembly.

No matter what side of the debate you are on, there is no denying that the issue of fracking will be a very contentious public debate for decades to come.  I will keep my ear to the ground and eyes open to both sides of this public contest for its going to be a long time before it’s over.

Until this comes to a resolve, I will continue to live life one mile at a time in The Green Lane.”

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