Commentary: U.S. must focus on better fuel standards

It's about time that the United States got serious about automobile emissions and federal fuel efficiency standards.

President Barack Obama recently unveiled the nation's first comprehensive effort to curb vehicle emissions while cutting dependence on imported oil.

In many respects, Obama is following the lead of progressive states such as Washington, Oregon and California which have long fought for higher emission standards only to be thwarted by the federal government under the stewardship of President George W. Bush.

Imposition of federal regulations will result in consistent standards rather than having each state or region of the country set its own limits on auto emissions.

The coalition Obama has built in support of the federal standards is impressive. It's pretty remarkable any time you have environmentalists and auto industry leaders championing the same agenda. Joining those officials at the recent Rose Garden ceremony were labor leaders, government officials, and key national and state political leaders.

The president said the agreement that once would have been "considered impossible" was what he termed a "harbinger of a change in the way business is done in Washington."

Of course it helps bring auto industry executives into line when the country has used tax dollars to bail out the industry.

"As a result of this agreement," Obama said, "we will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the vehicles sold in the next five years. And at a time of historic crisis in our auto industry, this rule provides the clear certainty that will allow these companies to plan for a future in which they are building the cars of the 21st century."

The president said the new standards are the equivalent of removing 177 million cars from the roads over the next 61/2 years.

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