Auto makers finally face higher fuel efficiency standards in the US.

Sort of.

After years of holding out against anything to do with climate change, President George Bush finally signed into law an energy bill establishing higher fuel-economy standards for new cars and other conservation measures. And then 8 hours later he completely sabotaged states like California that are trying to go faster.

The bill Bush signed at 10:25 AM yesterday requires the auto industry to reduce fuel consumption in most cars and light trucks by 40 percent, raising the fuel efficiency standard to 35 miles per gallon (15 kilometers per liter) by 2020.

Bush described the bill as “a major step toward reducing our dependence on oil, confronting global climate change, expanding the production of renewable fuels and giving future generations of our country a nation that is stronger, cleaner and more secure.”

The White House claimed it went part of the way to fulfilling promises made at the environmental conference in Bali last week.

Then barely eight hours later, at 6:30pm (conveniently past deadline for the evening news cycle) Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Stephen L. Johnson held a phone briefing to reveal that the EPA had denied California a waiver under the clean air act that would have allowed it to regulate carbon dioxide.

According to EPA administrator Johnson, the proposed California standard would have required 33 mpg by 2016. The bill Bush signed is for 35 by 2020, but contains significant loopholes as well.

If the E.P.A. had agreed to the waiver, California and other states would have enacted rules requiring the auto companies to achieve a 30 percent reduction of emissions by cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles by 2016. The rules were set to begin taking effect with 2009 model year vehicles, some of which go on sale as soon as next month.

Twelve states — Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington — representing almost half the US population – have followed California’s lead and adopted these emissions standards, and Arizona, Colorado, Florida and Utah were likely to do so in the near future.

So this is the new strategy for Bush on climate that we saw in Bali, and now here at home – he can no longer avoid engaging, so the new tack is engage and gum up the works as much as possible.

Presidential candidates take note – we see through this charade.


  • It is time to elect a true environmentalist for president. It seems to me that Dennis Kucinich who has a 100% rating on the environment, was against the war in Iraq in the first place and wants a department of Peace is the one to lead this nation in 2008.

  • Odd, isn’t it, that corporate media locks out the only truly strong environmental candidate – also the only candidate who has called for a national single-payer non-corporate health insurance system, for the withdrawal from NAFTA, GATT, the WTO and other corporate global monsters which have destroyed family-wage jobs in America and brush aside worker and environmental protections, for bringing home our troops from the insanity of the Iraq war – odd that Dennis Kucinich, who is the only candidate espousing all of these positions, has been locked out of debates, ignored on front pages and news channels across the nation, and dismissed as “can’t win” when he holds the positions most Americans support. Looks like we’ll have bought-and-paid-for corporate puppet candidates from both parties – again.

  • I like Mr. Kucinich. I think he would make America a good president!

    Bush and Cheney should me impeached!
    Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rove should be tried for war crimes and
    violation of the Geneva Convention.
    There are several who have resigned from the republican party, and
    thete are several still there that should be tried for perjury and obstruction
    of justice.

    This is the worst administration the USA has ever had, including the
    Hoover, Nixon and Reagan administrations. The people around the
    world that used to look up to us as peace keepers, and generous people
    hate us, and mainly iit is because of Bush and Cheney, the religious
    right wing, and the corporate wealthy.

    To hell with this administration,


  • I’m afraid that the arithmetically-challenged ‘new math’ generation has struck again. By all appearances, the proposed reduction in fuel consumption is a bit under 30%, not 40%: 40% appears to represent the increase in mandated average miles per gallon (from about 25 mpg currently for cars and light trucks combined to 35 mpg in 2020).

    The alleged 30% ‘reduction’ cited for the California proposal is similarly flawed.

    The good news is that light trucks (the category which includes SUVs) will be brought into the overall fold, rather than regulated separately as they are today – so changes in the sales mix won’t circumvent the regulated minimums (as they have for decades, given the major increases in market share of light trucks/SUVs and the laxer standards required of them). And the alleged ‘loopholes’ don’t appear to be real: sure, it will still be possible to buy gas-guzzlers, but if enough people do to really make any difference then their larger share of the mix will force manufacturers to increase either their efficiency or that of other vehicles in their fleet to maintain the overall 35 mpg minimum.

    So while the new regulations are over a decade late and hardly qualify as aggressive, they do rectify one glaring deficiency in the old ones. There’ll be plenty of opportunity to increase the minimum and pull in the deadline if we can get more environmentally-conscious representation in Washington; meanwhile, getting this issue back on the front burner is a worthwhile beginning.

    – bill

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