For the big-picture folks, the quick fire first week of the Obama Presidency clearly deomonstrates the administration is taking form. And while now casting out demons of the previous administration, it has set a course of its own, its mission and destiny. “This moment of peril must be turned to one of progress”, the newly minted President said this morning.
“It will be the policy of my administration to reverse our dependency on foreign oil”, the President said, speaking for the first time in the elegant East Room of the White House, “while building a new energy economy that will create millions of jobs.” With that, the President took one of his fine new pens to paper, signing a memorandum directing the EPA to review the 2007 decision of the Bush administration to deny California and 13 other states a waiver to establish their own stringent emission standards.
In an additional repute of Bush policies, Mr. Obama then ordered the Department of Transportation to establish new ‘fuel-efficiency’ standards by this March. Standing law required the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standard to rise to 35 miles per gallon by 2020, 40 percent more than current levels. Yet the Bush administration failed to finalize regulations to implement the law. Under the Order signed by the President today, 2011 model year vehicles will be the first impacted by tighter standards.
President Obama, in what could be considered yet another attempt to sooth his nervous new world, called this “a down payment on a broader and sustained effort to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”
Once the EPA process the waiver is complete, California will set its own emissions standards, and will be in the position of to require automakers to produce trucks and cars which get better mileage than what is called for under the current national standard. Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington are the other states seeking to follow California’s lead. The previous administration argued the creation of another set of rules relative to pollution standards for just some states would be both unenforceable and confusing. Mr. Obama has called for an increase of fuel efficiency nationwide. “Year after year, decade after decade, we have chosen delay over decisive action,” the President said. “We must have the courage and commitment to change.”
Ever mindful of both the need and opportunity to build and maintain cooperation, Mr. Obama added, “Instead of serving as a partner, Washington stood in their way”, continuing, “The days of Washington dragging its heels are over.” The new administration has seen no need to lurk.
Shortly after the East Room signing, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican who had campaigned for presidential candidate John McCain as a ‘real life action figure’, said at a new conference, “With this announcement from President Obama less than a week into his administration, it is clear that California and the environment now have a strong ally in the White House. Allowing California and other states to aggressively reduce their own harmful vehicle tailpipe emissions would be a historic win for clean air and for millions of Americans who want more fuel-efficient, environmentally-friendly cars.” Mr. Schwarzenegger added the result of Order would be ‘the equivalent of taking 6.5 million cars off the road in California now.”
Nonetheless, while some were appreciative of the action, others took issue with it. Liberal Senator Carl Levin, (D-MI) spoke against the President’s early environmental launch. Politico reported that “Levin was the first Democrat to speak out…but his opposition may make other rust belt Democrats more comfortable” doing the same. Levin reportedly told Politico that he was assured the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “does not begin with a foregone conclusion” a waiver must be granted to a state so it can go beyond federal limits. “I sure hope that is true, because a separate California standard is currently drafted, it is discriminatory against U.S. made vehicles of the same efficiency as the imports.”
Surely the new administration prefers the campaign of a somewhat coherent argument than a series of disconnected riffs. One or the other will determine the way they live now.
Prior to the signing, President Obama took a moment to address the raft of bad economic news of the past few days – including job cuts at Microfsoft, The Home Depot, and Sprint/Nextel.
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