Obama launches first US greenhouse gas standards

May 20th, 2009 - 1:13 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Washington, May 19 (DPA) US President Barack Obama Tuesday proposed the country’s first greenhouse gas emission standards and ordered carmakers to increase fuel economy.
“What an extraordinary day,” Obama said at the unveiling of what he called “an historic agreement to help America break its dependence on oil, reduce harmful pollution, and begin the transition to a clean-energy economy”.

The move, which represent a drastic departure from the Bush administration, is expected to reduce US carbon emissions by 900 million metric tonnes between 2012 and 2016 - or the equivalent of taking 58 million cars off the road for a year, Obama said.

Obama said the new standards will make the US less dependent on foreign oil suppliers whose policies Washington doesn’t like and help ward off global warming. Oil consumption is expected to drop by 1.8 billion barrels during the five-year period.

“The status quo is no longer acceptable,” Obama said, referring to the fact that the US has less than five percent of the world’s population yet uses more than 25 percent of its fossil fuel.

The new rules will tighten fuel efficiency rules for trucks and cars by insisting on improvements in average fuel economy - from the current 10.6 km per litre to 15 km per litre by 2016.

The 2016 target, which represents a 40 percent jump in efficiency, would be reached four years earlier than the current deadline set by Congress in a 2007 energy law.

Under the new rules, the government will set standards for each class size of vehicle.

“This has the effect of preserving consumer choice. You can continue to buy whatever size car you like, all cars get cleaner,” a senior official said ahead of the announcement on condition of anonymity.

Consumers will pay a price for the improved efficiency, estimated to add another $600 to the price of a car beyond the $700 already anticipated under the 2007 law.

But officials pointed out the “immediate savings” in fuel costs.

The new standards are in line with a target set by California some years ago. The Bush administration had refused to grant the state a waiver that would have allowed it to regulate fuel efficiency beyond the national standards.

Major automotive company officials stood behind Obama during the announcement, including from Toyota, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Chrysler, BMW, Nissan, Daimler, Mazda and Volkswagen. United Auto Workers Union President Ron Gettelfinger was also there.

Obama’s plans have gained applause from climate-change experts because they will reduce carbon emissions, which are blamed for global warming.

The move would “help move America off foreign oil, save families’ money and spur American businesses to take the lead in developing the job-creating, clean-energy technologies of the future,” said Daniel Weiss at the Centre for American Progress, a left-leaning Washington-based think tank.

He noted in a statement that China is pushing ahead to become the worldwide leader in plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and was investing $12.6 million an hour in greening China’s economy.

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