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Obama to Issue Federal Greenhouse Gas Tailpipe Standards

The White House will announce tomorrow a broad new federal standard for regulating greenhouse gas from cars and trucks.

Assuming my sources are correct, the standard will be 30 mpg for trucks and 39 mpg for cars by 2016--roughly equivalent to the California standards (known as "Pavley" after the sponsoring state assemblywoman) that were blocked by the Bush White House (and under reconsideration by President Obama). These standards will make vehicles 30 percent more fuel-efficient by 2016, when the program fully phases in. Regulating tailpipe greenhouse gases is basically the same as regulating fuel economy, since it is the only practical way to accomplish the goal.

Several auto industry sources declined to comment on the record until the announcement tomorrow, but Dan Becker of the Safe Climate Campaign (an arm of the Center for Auto Safety) described the new standards as the outcome of "a long, hard fight. This is the single biggest step we've taken to curbing global warming. This shows that the elections made a big difference--and the U.S. is finally getting serious about global warming and pollution reductions. Not only will this cut global warming pollution, but it throws a lifeline to American automakers who need to compete with their Japanese brethren."

It's unlikely the much-reduced "Big Three" will see this as a "lifeline." At the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, spokesman Charles Territo issued this terse statement: "At the end of the day, we're hopeful that there will be a national program for greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy."

And there will be, a fairly strong one. A remaining question was whether California will continue to seek a waiver for its own standards (which are followed by 14 other states and the District of Columbia). But California will be stepping aside, federal officials say. One thing is certain, the state will retain its unique ability to impose its own emissions standards, and could act in 2016 after the federal program ends.

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