President Obama issued two memoranda on Monday to address the fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions of the nation's automobiles.
The president directed the secretary of transportation to publish higher fuel economy standards for the model-year 2011 cars and light trucks by the end of March, and to re-evaluate the proposed standards for future model years. Automakers would generally begin selling model-year 2011 vehicles in fall 2010.
President Obama also directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to revisit a California waiver request that would allow that state to implement its own greenhouse gas emission rules for vehicles.
The federal Clean Air Act allows only California to set emission standards that deviate from federal rules, and any California standards require a waiver from the EPA. However, once California enacts its own standards, the act allows other states to adopt the rules set in California. Although the waiver request applies specifically to California, more than a dozen other states intend to implement the California greenhouse gas rules for vehicles if the waiver is granted.
"It will be the policy of my administration to reverse our dependence on foreign oil, while building a new energy economy that will create millions of jobs," Obama said. "We hold no illusion about the task that lies ahead. I cannot promise a quick fix. No single technology or set of regulations will get the job done. But we will commit ourselves to steady, focused, pragmatic pursuit of an America that is free from our energy dependence and empowered by a new energy economy that puts millions of our citizens to work."
Regarding the new memoranda, Obama noted, "Our goal is not to further burden an already struggling industry," but rather "to help America's automakers prepare for the future."
The president also touted the promise of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that is now working its way through Congress. According to Obama, the plan will double the United States’ capacity to generate renewable energy over the next three years and "will lay down 3,000 miles of transmission lines to deliver this energy to every corner of our country." The plan will also invest in energy efficiency, making 75 percent of federal buildings more energy efficient while weatherizing the homes of two million families.