White House Unveils Plan to Curb
Sep 16, 2009 - Stephen Power and
Josh Mitchell - Wall Street Journal.com
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration rolled out
details of its strategy to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions
from cars, with the head of the Environmental Protection
Agency saying the proposal paves the way for regulating
emissions from sources such as power plants.
|General Motors Chief Executive
Frederick 'Fritz' Henderson, center, was among
those on hand when President Barack Obama announced
new car fuel-efficiency standards at the White
House in May.
Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
The proposal requires that new-vehicle fleets average
35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. The requirements could
raise new-vehicle prices by as little as $476 per
vehicle in 2012 to as much as $1,091 per vehicle in
2016, according to a Transportation Department analysis.
The administration said the new standards would help
Americans save an estimated $3,000 over the lifetime
of a 2016 model-year car through better gas mileage.
video New Rules Go After Gas Guzzlers 1:30 The Obama
administration is set to usher in tougher fuel economy
standards. WSJ's Steve Power says after years of resisting
the changes, U.S. auto makers are getting on board
with the move.
Meanwhile, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in
an interview that "we must consider the implications
of the Clean Air Act and how it might apply to other
sources." She said it was "certainly a possibility"
that the agency could propose emissions regulations
covering other sources within the next year.
Business groups, including the Chamber of Commerce
and the National Association of Manufacturers, strongly
oppose using the Clean Air Act to limit carbon-dioxide
emissions from businesses, and have warned that such
an expansion of the EPA's regulatory power would be
costly and eliminate jobs.
Earlier this year, the agency declared greenhouse-gas
emissions a threat to human health and welfare, the
legal trigger for regulating them under the federal
Clean Air Act. The agency's declaration was a response
to a 2007 ruling by a divided Supreme Court that held
that the act authorizes the agency to regulate greenhouse-gas
emissions from autos if it determines they cause or
contribute to air pollution that may reasonably be
anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.
Many legal experts say the Clean Air Act doesn't
give the EPA much leeway to pick which sources to
regulate. The Obama administration has said it would
prefer to tackle climate change through legislation
that requires companies to pay for the right to emit
greenhouse gases. On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader
Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said the Senate might delay
voting on such legislation until next year, though
his spokesman said no decision had been made.
The auto industry earlier this year agreed to support
the administration's proposal to boost new-vehicle
fuel efficiency and set greenhouse-gas-emissions rules.
In return, the industry will be allowed to abide by
one, nationwide standard rather than a patchwork of
state rules, which it fears could be more onerous.
A bipartisan proposal introduced in the Senate last
month would create a "feebate" system, in which consumers
who buy vehicles that get good mileage would be given
a subsidy, funded through a fee levied on less fuel-efficient
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood declined to say
Tuesday whether the administration would favor a feebate
system or other policies targeting consumers.
The proposal was accompanied by an analysis, prepared
by the Transportation Department, that said the proposed
standards could result in additional traffic fatalities
by encouraging auto makers to reduce the weight of
their vehicles in ways that compromise safety.
Still, Ms. Jackson said in the interview that "everything
we know indicates that it [additional traffic fatalities]
is very unlikely," adding that the DOT is required
by law to examine such worst-case scenarios.
Write to Stephen Power at firstname.lastname@example.org
and Josh Mitchell at email@example.com