In another break from the failed Bush policies, today President Obama is expected to direct federal regulators to allow an application by California and 13 other states to set strict automobile emission and fuel efficiency standards.
Known as the “Californian waiver” under the Clean Air Act, it would allow Californian and 13 others to set their own emission and fuel efficiency standards.
Together these 14 states account for about half of the American market for cars and light trucks. The move had been vehemently opposed by the auto industry who argued they would have to make one set of more fuel efficient vehicles for California and another set for everyone else.
Charles Territo, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, criticised Obama’s plans saying. “Applying California standards to several different states would create a complex, confusing and very difficult situation for manufacturers”.
The industry obviously couldn’t be intelligent enough to think that – hey – they could just make one lot of more fuel efficient vehicles and stay with the curve of increasing environmental consciousness and the credit crunch. But no it is an industry with its head firmly in the sand.
As the New York Times reports today “Granting California and the other states the right to regulate tailpipe emissions would be one of the most emphatic actions Mr. Obama could take to quickly put his stamp on environmental policy.”
Although Obama will not order the policy reversal, EPA regulators are widely expected to go through with them. Once this is so, car manufacturers would have begin producing and selling cars and trucks that get higher mileage than the national standard, coupled with a faster phase in.
Beyond acting on the California emissions law, officials said, Mr. Obama will also direct the Transportation Department to quickly finalize interim nationwide regulations requiring the automobile industry to increase fuel efficiency standards to comply with a 2007 law. Again these were rules that the Bush Administration decided not to issue.
Some are tripping over themelseves to laud the new President. Daniel J. Weiss, director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress in Washington argues: “This is a complete reversal of President Bush’s policy of censoring or ignoring global warming science. With the fuel economy measures and clean energy investments in the recovery package, President Obama has done more in one week to reduce oil dependence and global warming than George Bush did in eight years.”
But let’s not get too carried away. Yes it is a good first start and shows clear political intent. But the result would be an increase in fuel efficiency in the American car and light truck fleet to roughly 35 miles per gallon from the current average of 27, and to do so four years ahead of schedule from recent legislation. It would require automakers to cut emissions by nearly a third by 2016, four years ahead of the federal timetable.
But Obama himself has argued that fuel efficiency standards should rise to 40 mpg. But even that is nothing revolutionary. Europe is trying to achieve 47 mpg by 2012. Even that is harldy cutting edge. I remember 15 years ago the man from Volvo saying his LCP 2000 prototype could do 100 mpg.
Obama calling for 100 mpg by 2020, now that really would be the audacity of hope.