Obama with Ford CEO 88 248.
(photo credit: )
President Barack Obama announced Tuesday new standards for vehicle greenhouse-gas emissions and tougher goals for fuel efficiency to help wean America from dependence on imported oil, calling the plan an historic turning point toward a clean-energy economy.
The two-front approach to problems that compound threats to the global environment marks the latest in a series of shifts by the Obama administration away from the policies of his conservative predecessor, former president George W. Bush.
"While the United States makes up less than 5 percent of the world's population, we create roughly a quarter of the world's demand for oil. And this appetite comes at a tremendous price," Obama said, while surrounded by leading members of Congress, the industry and the autoworkers union.
Under the new emissions standards, vehicles sold in the United States would be required to emit about one-third less carbon dioxide by a 2016 deadline. New fuel efficiency standards demand a 30% improvement.
Obama said the new rules amounted to removing 177 million cars from the roads over the next 6 1/2 years.
In that period, the savings in oil burned to fuel American cars, trucks and buses would amount to last year's combined US imports from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Libya and Nigeria.
"As a result of this agreement," Obama said, "we will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the vehicles sold in the next five years. And at a time of historic crisis in our auto industry, this rule provides the clear certainty that will allow these companies to plan for a future in which they are building the cars of the 21st century."
While the new fuel and emission standards for cars and trucks will save billions of barrels of oil, they are expected to cost consumers an extra $1,300 per vehicle by the time the plan is complete in 2016. Obama said the fuel-cost savings would offset the higher price of vehicles in three years.
The new standards were designed, in part, to overcome a contentious fight between the federal government and US states - most notably California - that had set stricter rules than had existed nationally during previous administrations.
The Obama plan gives the states essentially what they sought and more, although the buildup is slower than the states sought. In exchange, though, cash-strapped states such as California would not have to develop their own standards and enforcement plan. Instead, they can rely on federal tax dollars to monitor the environment.
The auto industry had been fighting the state regulations but ceded to the new policy in return for a predictable countrywide approach with the deadline 6 1/2 years distant.
But industry officials - many of whom are running companies on emergency taxpayer dollars - said Obama's plan would help them because they would not face multiple emissions requirements and would have more certainty as they develop their vehicles for the next decade.
The plan must still clear procedural hurdles at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department. Automakers expressed their support for the plan.
"We're all agreeing to work together on a national program," said Dave McCurdy, president and CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.