US President Barack Obama was expected to issue new regulations yesterday that would allow several US states to set tougher car emissions and fuel efficiency standards, US media and congressional officials said.
The dramatic federal action granting California and 13 other states the right to regulate tailpipe emissions is a sharp departure from former US president George W. Bush's environmental policy, and has been sharply opposed by auto companies.
The New York Times reported that Obama is to issue a directive to the US Environmental Protection Agency to immediately begin work on granting the so-called California waiver, which allows the state — long in the vanguard on environmental matters — to set its own standards for automobile emissions.
In his White House announcement, Obama was expected to issue a directive requiring federal agencies to immediately begin work on making all government buildings more energy efficient.
The new US administration hopes to achieve energy savings of up to US$2 billion per year, as well as a reduction of emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for global warming.
The presidential orders will require vehicle manufacturers to begin producing and selling cars and trucks that get higher mileage than the national standard, and on a faster phase-in schedule, the media reports said.
Obama was also expected to announce that he is moving forward with nationwide regulations requiring improved fuel efficiency standards.
“If we don't put a price on carbon, we'll never get these clean energy sources online,” said Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California, the chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Obama will also direct the Department of Transportation to immediately begin drafting automobile fuel-economy regulations to comply with a law enacted in December 2007.
Bush delayed implementing the law and left office saying there was not sufficient time to write the rules.
The anticipated greenhouse gas restrictions will be part of a larger effort by the Obama administration to stimulate renewable energy supply. Obama's stimulus plan calls for investing heavily in wind and solar power as well as biofuels.