New National Emissions Limits

Obama brings together adversaries, comes up with standards automakers can work with

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Today I write with good news…. today, President Obama will unveil the first-ever national emission limits for cars and trucks, a move that Sierra Club President Carl Pope says is “one of the most significant efforts undertaken by any president, ever, to end our addiction to oil and seriously slash our global warming emissions.”

Daniel Becker of the Safe Climate Campaign quoted in the American Progess Action Fund Progress Report, calls it “single biggest step the American government has ever taken to cut greenhouse-gas emissions.” The Obama administration will also raise fuel efficiency. By 2016, cars and light trucks will have an average mile requirement of 35.5 miles per gallon versus the current 25 mpg average.


“The projected oil savings of this program over the life of this program is 1.8 billion barrels of oil,” announced a senior administration official on a conference call with reporters last night. “The program is also projected to achieve reductions of 900 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions under the life of the program. That is equivalent to taking 177 million cars off the road or shutting down 194 coal plants.”

Not impressed yet? To make this happen, Obama brought together a bunch of groups that are normally in opposition: three regulatory bodies, 15 states, a dozen automakers, unions and many environmental groups. Not only will we get better emissions standards thanks to Obama’s efforts, but the auto industry now plans to drop all lawsuits challenging stricter emission standards because the Obama administration’s plan provides “the single national efficiency standard they have long desired, a reasonable timetable to meet it and the certainty they need to proceed with product development plans.”

Thank you Obama for understanding business as well as environment.

Obviously, national standards are the first step. New technology development is the bigger task, as well as the infrastructure that would go along with, for example, more people owning electric cars, or hydrogen fuel cells that need to be swapped and recharged. A major marketing and education campaign is another critical component. What would it take to get you to invest in a new vehicle, a significant purchase? And then there is the question of what happens to the old ones. Hopefully the administration is also thinking about retrofits and end of lifecycle recycling.

Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Daniel J. Weiss, quoted in the Progress Report, called today’s announcement a “triple play” because it will “help move America off foreign oil, save families money, and spur American businesses to take the lead in developing the job-creating, clean-energy technologies of the future.” In yesterday’s White House press briefing, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that today’s announcement would help end the American “crisis” in the “emission of dangerous greenhouse gases” and “our dangerous dependence on foreign oil.”

But wait—there is more. Under the Bush administration, states fought to impose tougher vehicle emission standards on their own. But, according to the Progress report, in 2008, the White House pushed EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson — against the advice of EPA staffers — to deny California a waiver that would have allowed 16 states to implement reductions. Basically, the Bush administration refused to regulate greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously forbidding other states to do so on their own. Okay. Done ranting and ready to move on.

Does this mean that we’re done with the emissions issue. No. Really the only acceptable solution is zero emissions form our vehicles, but it’s a significant step in the right direction.

What’s your MPG? And what will it take to get you to buy a new fuel efficient vehicle. Tell us in the comments below.

Thanks to the American Progress Report for compiling recent quotes and stats on auto emissions standards.

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