President Obama today unveiled new national auto standards that will accelerate increases in auto fuel economy and impose the first-ever national greenhouse gas emissions standard on cars and trucks.
"In the past, an agreement such as this would have been considered impossible," the president said in a Rose Garden speech. "That is why this announcement is so important, for it represents not only a change in policy in Washington, but the harbinger of a change in the way business is done in Washington."
The proposal would blend legal authority the Supreme Court granted U.S. EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions in its 2007 Massachusetts v. EPA decision with the Transportation Department's right to regulate fuel economy under the corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, program, while still preserving California's right to regulate air pollution under the Clean Air Act.
Joining the president at the White House event were top executives from 10 major automakers, including Fritz Henderson, who became president of General Motors Corp. in March after Obama ousted Rick Wagoner as head of the company.
"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," Obama said.
Also on stage with Obama were Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who currently oversees the CAFE program, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and White House energy and climate adviser Carol Browner.
The proposed rulemaking will be a joint effort between EPA and DOT and will mandate a 5 percent annual increase in fuel economy for model years 2012 through 2016. It would push CAFE standards to a fleetwide average of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, four years ahead of the schedule Congress laid out in a 2007 energy law.
The announcement will not specifically grant California the waiver it needs to enforce its standards, but it would appear to make EPA's forthcoming decision on the issue moot. The White House said that if EPA does ultimately grant the waiver later, California has agreed to defer to the national standard through 2016 – and that if the waiver request is rejected, the proposal will move forward regardless.
In addition, the rulemaking would limit the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from passenger cars and light trucks, the first-ever such standard for the vehicles. A draft of the rule has not yet been released, but a White House spokesperson said the limit would be set at 250 grams per mile per vehicle in 2016.