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Obama reverses Dubya's tailpipe emissions

Preemption preempted

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Unlike the W that preceded him, President Barack Obama believes that US states should have the right to set their own limits on the greenhouse gases spewed from cars and trucks.

This morning, The New York Times reports, the new prez asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to revisit a waiver application from California and 13 other states that would allow them to roll out tailpipe-emissions standards that outstrip federal regulations.

Under the US Clean Air Act, states can unilaterally limit tailpipe gases, but only if they get a waiver from the EPA. And under the Dubya administration, the EPA wouldn't give them one.

Obama stopped short of ordering an EPA reversal. But a reversal is expected.

The prez also told the US Transportation Department to find a way of implementing a 2007 law that would force auto makers to improve gas mileage for cars and light trucks by 40 per cent over the next 11 years. By March, Obama says, the department must set fuel-efficiency standards for the industry's 2011 models. That would give automakers 18 months to get themselves in gear.

Like the EPA, the Transportation Department once joined the fight against state-proposed emissions standards. In April, Dubya's department said its latest fuel efficiency proposal would "preempt" greenhouse gas regulations from California and other states.

US automakers have lobbied heavily against such regulations - and even challenged them in court. But after today's press conference at the White House, new Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood gave them no sympathy. "They knew this was coming," he said.

The question is whether Obama's move is as green as it seems to be. Surely, the country would be better served if he pushed through federal regulation that mimics California's tailpipe standards. State regulation makes matters more complicated - and in all likelihood, more costly.

But it would seem that Obama's aim is to move things forward as quickly as possible - after years of Dubya delays. ®

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