Commentary: New fuel, emissions standards are a win for all

This editorial appeared in The Fresno Bee.

What a difference an election makes. The administration of President George W. Bush repeatedly sided with automakers to thwart efforts by California and 13 other states that sought authority to require auto companies to produce cars that emitted less greenhouse gases. In welcome contrast, President Barack Obama this week adopted the very standards the car companies and their Bush administration allies had sued to block.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who signed California's landmark greenhouse-gas law, shared the platform with the president as Obama announced tough new emissions and mileage rules that largely match California's toughest-in-the-nation standards.

Under the deal, car companies will be given more time to achieve the changes than California's law allowed. All parties have agreed to drop the protracted lawsuits that had cost California, the auto industry and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency a bundle over the past seven years.

And rather than object to the Obama plan, auto executives publicly embraced the new rules. In fact, they claim that the rules go a long way toward achieving what the companies have always wanted, a single standard that applies across the nation.

The companies' acquiescence is a reflection of an altered landscape, both political and economic. One major U.S. auto company, Chrysler, is already in bankruptcy and another, GM, is contemplating it. Both companies have accepted billions of dollars in government bailouts and seek billions more. The global warming-denying Bush administration and its allies in Congress are no longer in charge. The Obama administration holds the purse strings now. By embracing the new rules, car companies clearly recognize that fact.

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