Today President Obama signaled that fuel efficiency, global warming and energy independence were more important than the parochial interests of the auto industry.
He directed the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider the Bush administration’s 2007 denial of California’s (and 13 other states’) request to set its own emissions and fuel efficiency standards. If other states join California, and some 17 are leaning that way, we’re talking about 40% of the population.
Obama also directed the Department of Transportation to enact rules to get automakers to a standard of 35 mpg by 2020. The current level is 27.5 mpg. Said Obama, “That 40 percent increase in fuel efficiency for our cars and trucks could save over 2 million barrels of oil every day: nearly the amount of oil that we import from the Persian Gulf.”
As in so many areas, the industry should have seen this one coming. Beyond energy independence, Mr. Obama wants to “spark the innovation needed to ensure that our auto industry keeps pace with competitors around the world.” So, while he sticks it to ‘em with much tougher standards, he offers something of an olive branch:
As we move forward, we will fully take into account the unique challenges facing the American auto industry and the taxpayer dollars that now support it. And let me be clear: Our goal is not to further burden an already struggling industry; it is to help America’s automakers prepare for the future.
Many in the industry have already been wailing that such regulations will cost them $100 billion to implement. According to Fortune, meeting the new standard will require “new smaller platforms, new high-technology engines, and, inevitably, higher prices for consumers. Forcing automakers to design a second fleet of cars for California could greatly inflate the cost.”
Well, we’ve heard this argument for years and, as the president says, “the days of Washington dragging its heels are over.” Detroit has recently shown that it can and will produce the kinds of fuel-efficient and desirable cars the public wants and needs. And, if it can’t immediately produce them for all 50 states, it can do it in a two-tiered effort.
The Obama administration, according to our friends at TheCarConnection, may well create only two sets of regulations—one for California and those states who choose to go along and one for the rest of the U.S.—to avoid the crazy quilt situation that could result if each state went its own way.
One wonders how much the automakers have spent in their legal battles over the years to postpone the inevitable. And we bet that the feds will give them future help in implementing these tougher standards.
We’d like your opinion on any of the following:
- Will people buy the new fuel-efficent cars, or does it all depend on the price of gas?
- Is this the smart way to encourage lower gas consumption? What about a $2/gal gas tax?
- Will the California standard end up being the U.S. standard?