Declaring that “Rigid ideology has overruled sound science,” President Barack Obama signed an executive order basically scuttling roadblocks the Bush administration has placed in the way of California and other states in setting their own emission and fuel efficiency standards.
But, most important, he gave yet another sign that his election has brought a major change in perspective to the Oval Office.
Obama basically put “fin” on (for now) the federal government being at odds with the recommendations of respected scientists on issues such as emissions and global warming and being odd-country-out when it comes to international consensus on environmental issues: “Our administration will not deny facts. We will be guided by them.” he said. “We will make it clear to the world that American is ready to lead..”
This was a big victory for California and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Several things were notable about Obama’s comments before signing the executive order. Obama also pointedly used the occasion to cite the latest bad economic news about big corporations laying off more people.
This is yet one more indication that Obama intends to use the bully pulpit of the Presidency to press for his issues. Since his election he has shown that he has no problem with press conferences. Couple that with his use of You Tube and he could be writing a new chapter in Presidential communications.
Here’s his statement and the signing of the executive order scrapping the Bush approach:
UPDATE: Here’s a bit more about what Obama directed the EPA today to do to reverse the Bush policy (which accounts during the Bush administration suggested many thoughtful people at the EPA didn’t agree with in the first place):
President Barack Obama began reversing the climate policies of the Bush administration on Monday, clearing the way for new rules to force auto makers to produce more fuel-efficient and less polluting cars.
The president told the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider immediately a request by California to impose its own strict limits on vehicle carbon dioxide emissions, blamed for contributing to global warming.
….Obama’s directive, which is likely to result in a formal change in coming months, could prompt as many as 18 states to follow California’s lead by putting into effect tailpipe emissions standards that are tougher than federal requirements.
The president directed the Department of Transportation to move forward with setting vehicle fuel efficiency standards for model year 2011 by March, giving automakers an 18-month period to prepare.
The rules piled pressure on an ailing car industry struggling to survive in a deepening recession with the help of federal bailouts.
Writes Tim Wheeler on The Baltimore Sun’s Bay & Environment blog:
It didn’t take long for the Obama administration to start changing federal environmental policy. The White House is expected to announce today that it is asking the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider letting California and other states, including Maryland, set stricter auto emissions rules to reduce climate-warming pollution.
California, which has a history of adopting some of the strictest environmental rules in the country, adopted standards that would force automakers to produce cars and trucks for sale in that state that were far more fuel-efficient than required under federal rules. As reported in The Baltimore Sun today, so-called California cars would have to get at least 3 miles more to the gallon by 2015 and 7 miles more by 2020.
Maryland followed California’s lead in 2007, enacting legislation that state officials say could eventually reduce greenhouse gas emission in the state by 7.8 million tons a year – the equivalent of closing a 1,200-megawatt coal-burning power plant.
But with automakers lobbying hard against states setting tougher fuel-efficiency standrads, the Bush administration EPA denied California’s request for a waiver from federal clean-air rules – effectively blocking Maryland and other states from following suit.
Now, it appears the Obama administration has reversed course. It didn’t take long to go from talking about change to actually doing it, in this case.
There more so read it all.
But Michigan’s Democratic Senator is upset over what this will mean to his state’s on-life-support auto industry:
Michigan Sen. Carl Levin is pushing back on President Obama’s move that may open the door for California and other states to adopt stringent new emissions standards on motor vehicles.
Levin, a liberal Democrat but a fierce defender of his state’s auto industry, said he was assured in recent discussions with top Obama environment officials that the Environmental Protection Agency “does not begin with a foregone conclusion” that a waiver should be granted to the state so it can go beyond federal limits.
Levin was the first Democrat to speak out Monday afternoon, but his opposition may make other rust belt Democrats more comfortable criticizing President Obama’s first major environmental initiative.
“I sure hope that is true, because a separate California standard will not only create the ‘confusing and patchwork set of standards’ that President Obama today implied he wanted to avoid, but also, as the California standard is currently drafted, it is discriminatory against U.S.-made vehicles of the same efficiency as the imports,” Levin said.
Today, the Pew Environment Group applauded President Obama’s decision to instruct the Environmental Protection Agency to review California’s waiver to regulate automobile tailpipe emissions and for the Transportation Department to issue guidelines that will ensure the nation’s auto fleet reaches an average fuel efficiency of at least 35 miles per gallon by 2020, if not earlier.
“During the campaign President Obama promised to move our nation toward greater energy independence and address global warming. Today, he made the first down payment on fulfilling that promise,” said Phyllis Cuttino who directs the Pew Environment Group’s U.S. Global Warming Campaign. “Amidst the array of challenges facing his administration, President Obama’s actions today send a clear signal to America and the world that his administration will play a leadership role on energy and global warming.”
Citing the need for early action to decrease U.S. dependence on oil and global warming pollution, the Pew Environment Group last week called on President Obama to take four specific executive actions to start forging a safer, cleaner energy future. Those items included:
* Instructing the EPA to formally declare that carbon dioxide and other global warming emissions are a danger to human health and wellbeing. This is the first step in regulating global warming emissions as pollutants under the Clean Air Act.
* Directing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to allow the global warming vehicle standard adopted by 14 states and the District of Columbia to go forward. This would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new cars and light trucks 30 percent by 2016.
* Accelerating the schedule for increasing fuel efficiency. The 2007 energy bill increased fuel efficiency standards to at least 35 miles per gallon by 2020 but a Department of Transportation analysis shows automakers can meet this goal five years earlier, saving consumers even more money at the pump.
* Ordering higher efficiency standards for federal government buildings and vehicle fleets. This could help jumpstart construction, retrofitting and manufacturing throughout America.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.