Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Obama Sets Bold New Principles for U.S. Energy, Climate Policies

President Obama vowed the United States will lead the global fight against global warming as he moved emphatically to overturn Bush administration's energy and climate change policies.

"We will make it clear to the world that America is ready to lead," Obama said at the White House on January 26. During his campaign, Obama promised to fight global warming, cut energy consumption and reduce U.S. dependence on foreign energy sources.

The president said he views America as part of a global coalition whose members work together to protect global climate and collective security. He said other large economies such as China and India must do their part to limit greenhouse gas emissions, "just as we are now willing to do ours."

Obama said the United States will not delay action due to tough economic conditions. Promoting climate-friendly renewable energy, he said, actually will stimulate the ailing U.S. economy and reduce demand for oil imports.

"America will not be held hostage to dwindling resources, hostile regimes and a warming planet," Obama said.

RELATED ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIONS

In one of two January 26 memorandums, Obama directed the Department of Transportation to set new fuel-economy standards by March for 2011 car models. The president called the action "a down payment on a broader and sustained effort to reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

In 2007, Congress passed legislation to raise the average fuel-economy standard to 35 miles per gallon for each auto fleet. An auto fleet is the group of passenger cars produced by each automaker. The Bush administration did not implement the legislation.

Obama's request would give automakers 18 months to get ready for the change.

"Our goal is not to further burden an already struggling industry. It is to help America's automakers prepare for the future," he said.

In another reversal of the Bush administration's policies, the president acted to remove a regulatory obstacle that prevented California and more than a dozen other states from raising automobile emission standards above the national level.

In the second memorandum, he instructed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider a request by California to allow it to impose its own strict limits on auto carbon dioxide emissions, which are believed to contribute to global warming. The previous administration denied the request.

"Instead of serving as a partner, Washington stood in their way," Obama said. "The days of Washington dragging its heels are over."

California's plan to cut emissions by 30 percent by 2016 is the most ambitious effort to date by any state or federal authority to address global warming.

U.S. and U.S.-based foreign automakers have opposed the plan, arguing it would create a confusing patchwork of state rules related to different emission goals.

It will likely be months before the EPA issues a ruling, according to White House officials.