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by Matt Brogan

US President Obama has directed federal regulators to move swiftly on an application by California and 13 other states to set strict limits on greenhouse gases from cars and trucks.

He also ordered the Transportation Department to begin drawing up rules imposing higher fuel efficiency standards on cars and light trucks. His orders were intended “to ensure that the fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow are built right here in America.”

President Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider the Bush administration’s past rejection of the California application. While he stopped short of flatly ordering the reversal of the Bush decision, the agency’s regulators are now widely expected to do so after completing a formal review process.

The president also directed the Transportation Department to draw up rules to implement a 2007 law requiring a 40 per cent improvement in fuel economy for cars and light trucks by the year 2020. The Bush administration failed to write any regulations to enforce the new law.

Once the agencies act, car manufacturers will quickly have to retool to begin producing and selling cars and trucks that are cleaner and get more kilometres per tank on an accelerated schedule. The car companies have lobbied hard against the regulations and have even challenged them in court.

To avoid losing another year on emissions and fuel efficiency, President Obama will order temporary regulations to be completed by March so that carmakers will have enough time to retool for vehicles to be sold in 2011.

Final standards for later years will be determined by a separate process that, under President Obama’s order, must take into consideration legal, scientific and technological factors.




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