what other people think

Will Obama’s Auto-Emission Plan Actually Work?

The sun is out because good things are happening,” Obama said during his opening remarks in the Rose Garden moments ago, perhaps giving himself a bit too much credit for the nation’s weather patterns. The “good things” Obama was referring to, though, are new emissions and fuel-efficiency standards for United States automakers, which call for new cars and light trucks to achieve an average of 35.5 mpg by 2016, which is four years faster than previously mandated. Obama calls this an “unprecedented change” that is “extraordinary” not just for the oil it saves, but for the agreement reached between former adversaries. The plan is a compromise between the Obama administration, car companies, and California, which has been trying to secure permission to enact stricter in-state emissions for years. Obama has managed to please all parties involved: California is content that its rules are being adopted nationwide, environmentalists are cheering the beneficial effects on climate change, and even automakers are onboard (not that they have a choice!). But greening up their cars will also cost more money, and some wonder whether consumers will actually be willing to pay the up-front costs.

• Jad Mouawad says this is “another very big step in the administration’s commitments to reduce carbon emissions. By addressing fuel standards and tying them to emission limits, the new plan directly tackles the transportation sector, which accounts for about a third of total emissions in the United States.” [Green Inc./NYT]

• Kate Sheppard calls Obama’s plan “the first major step by his administration to limit planet-warming greenhouse gases.” [Grist]

• Jennifer Rubin believes the plan “will necessitate more subsidies to get Americans to buy the cars government has forced the companies to make,” while “[t]he extent of the expenses imposed on the car companies is staggering and the impact, inescapable.” [Contentions/Commentary]

• Marc Ambinder says the auto industry is onboard because “it provides ‘certainty’ for long-term planning and gives automakers sufficient lead time to take advantage of existing technology.” [Atlantic]

• Ezra Klein says that Detroit wanted “a single national standard,” but the problem “is that the single national standard will be California’s standard.” He compares it to “a kid complaining to the principal that his teacher is harder than all the others only to have the principal rule that all the other teachers must become equally demanding. Oops.” [WP]

• David Welch says that “carmakers will find a way to meet the new rule,” but wonders how they will actually make a profit off their “new efficient models.” “The industry will have to raise prices, but getting enough of a hike to make a profit on green technology has been elusive since hybrids first went on sale.” [Autobeat/Business Week]

• Tom Walsh writes that “General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC are under almost total federal control now and must do whatever Uncle Sam says,” regardless of whether they can actually meet “the ambitious new targets.” While “it’s almost ludicrous to expect consumers to choose so many higher-mileage vehicles if gasoline is still selling for $2 or $2.50 a gallon,” at least automakers can avoid “the potential nightmare of … having to conform to a patchwork mess of different and stricter standards from California and other states.” [Detroit Free Press]

• Michelle Malkin calls the agreement “a $1,300 car tax. On the working class. On the middle class. On everyone who has responded to the government’s consumption-mania incentives — loosened credit, tax deductions — and bought/planned to buy a new car without taking into account these unanticipated costs.” Also, scientists have proved that more people will die because of the smaller, fuel-efficient cars. [Michelle Malkin]

• Carol Platt Liebau claims this is yet another of Obama’s hidden taxes. [Town Hall]

• Matt Yglesias thinks this is “a major step forward relative to the business-as-usual baseline” that “will do a great deal of good.” At the same time, “it would be better to have higher gasoline taxes as a complement or a supplement for tighter fuel efficiency standards.” One reason is that higher CAFE standards “does nothing to encourage the purchase of more fuel efficient used cars except on a very long time horizon.” [Think Progress]

• Ryan Avent contends that we should be focusing our efforts more on transit and less on cars. [Atlantic]

Will Obama’s Auto-Emission Plan Actually Work?