Obama's Green Agenda Starts With Fuel Efficiency for Cars

The president wants to allow states broad authority to tighten fuel efficiency standards.

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Reversing his predecessor's policies, President Barack Obama unveiled plans today to attempt to force the auto industry to go "green," particularly by allowing states freer reign in tightening their fuel efficiency standards.

Under the Bush administration, California and 13 other states applied to put limits on the carbon dioxide emissions of automobiles that would be stricter than national rules. California's restrictions, in particular, are aimed at cutting emissions by 30 percent between 2009 and 2016—four years earlier than the timetable set by the federal government.

However, the applicationwas rejected in 2007 by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA said that President George W. Bush had already addressed the issue. It also said that allowing each state to set its own rules on pollution would make environmental law confused and patchy.

But that logic doesn't fly with Obama, who pledged during his campaign to reverse the ruling. Today, he ordered the EPA to reconsider its former rejection of the California application—potentially making nearly half of the U.S. auto market subject to new, stricter regulations.

Although ordering the EPA to reexamine the California application again is meant to represent a break with the past, it's not the only announcement on the environment that came from the Obama administration today. The president also ordered the Transportation Department to come up with tighter fuel efficiency standards for the 2011 model year. And he emphasized his pledge that the United States would be a leader in action on climate change.

"The days of Washington dragging its heels is over," he said.