Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
Climate Change

Trucking Industry Likes Higher Fuel Prices — When They Help Truckers

1:51 PM EDT on October 29, 2009

To hear American Trucking Association (ATA) vice chairman Barbara Windsor tell the Senate environment panel today, truckers would face a grim economic future if the price of diesel fuel rises, as the ATA predicts would happen if Congress passes climate change legislation.

windsor1.jpgBarbara Windsor of the ATA, at right, with Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO). (Photo: ATA)

"If we have to add costs for diesel, I think we'd have a decline in jobs," Windsor told Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), the senior Republican on the environment committee.

But for the ATA, more expensive diesel fuel isn't always a bad thing -- only when it results from putting a price on carbon.

The truckers' group supports increasing the federal diesel fuel tax, which has remained static for 16 years at 24 cents per gallon, but only "so long as the revenue is not diverted to other causes," as ATA's chairman explained this month.

So the ATA is in favor of putting a price on high-emissions diesel fuel, but only when the resulting revenue is used to advance transportation policies that meet with the trucking industry's approval. What makes the truckers different, then, from any other D.C. interest group that lobbies tooth and nail for its own bottom line?

For one, the ATA-endorsed claim that the climate bill amounts to a "$3.6 trillion gas tax" uses inflated estimates that differ markedly from those used by the independent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Both the CBO and EPA have found that acting on climate change would lead to fuel price increases of around 25 cents per gallon by 2030. Meanwhile, diesel prices rose by 56 cents per gallon over a span of just three months this spring, a phenomenon the ATA chalked up to oil speculators. (The ATA has yet to endorse Rep. Pete DeFazio's [D-OR] proposal to tax oil speculators to pay for infrastructure improvements.)

Secondly, Windsor told the Senate today that as an alternative to passing the climate bill, the ATA would support continued use of SmartWay, a voluntary emissions reduction incentive program created by the trucking industry and the EPA. In fact, SmartWay is expanded in the Senate climate bill, with a competitive financing program established for the EPA to reward commercial shippers that use cleaner transportation methods.

Of course, such SmartWay financing would likely benefit electrified freight rail as a workable alternative to trucking, which now carries more than 80 percent of the nation's freight, according to Windsor. Freight rail also stands to gain from the climate bill's set-aside of nearly 3 percent of emissions "allowance revenue" for greener transport.

Perhaps, then, the prospect of competing with freight rail is driving the trucking industry's climate stance as much as any anticipated increase in diesel prices.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

Friday’s Headlines Are So Fresh and So Clean

The only thing Americans love more than a car is a clean car.

February 23, 2024

Talking Headways Podcast: The Annual Yonah Freemark Show, Part II

This week, let's talk about transit funding in general and the Roosevelt Boulevard subway in Philadelphia, specifically.

February 22, 2024

State DOTs Spend Even More Money on Highway Expansions Than We Thought

Advocates knew states would go on a highway widening binge when the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed — but they didn't know it would be quite this bad.

February 22, 2024

Thursday’s Headlines Breathe Freely

If every driver started buying electric vehicles powered by clean energy, it would prevent millions of respiratory illnesses. But the market has slowed down significantly.

February 22, 2024
See all posts