Obama moves on fuel, emissions standards

Two orders signed by the new president Monday will benefit the environment and lead to better fuel efficiency in U.S. automobiles.

By Alex Koppelman

Published January 26, 2009 7:10PM (EST)

President Obama killed two birds with one stone Monday, breaking with Bush administration precedent once again by moving to tighten fuel efficiency standards for U.S. cars and allow states to set their own, stricter, rules governing automobile emissions.

One of the memorandums Obama signed directs the EPA to reconsider the Bush administration's decision to bar California from setting its own emissions standards. It's not an order to reverse the decision, at least not explicitly, but the agency is expected to go that direction after a review. At least 13 other states would follow California if its application is approved.

The second memorandum was directed at the Transportation Department. Obama instructed the department to come up with regulations aimed at implementing a 2007 law that requires a 40 percent increase in gas mileage for cars and light trucks by 2020, which would bring the minimum amount of miles per gallon allowed by law to 35. This memorandum deals with rules that would begin in the 2011 model year; under the law, the rules can't be made more than five years before implementation. The Bush administration proposed its own set of regulations, which were criticized as being too weak, but never implemented them.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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