Tuesday, May 19th, 2009 at 2:17 pm
A Culture Change on Climate Change
"For what everyone here believes, even as views differ on many important issues, is that the
status quo is no longer acceptable."
This week the makings of a change in the culture of Washington will be on display, and as the President’s words above indicate there could be no better example than today’s announcement of a breakthrough on fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards. Whereas these issues seemed destined to be the subject of eternal political clashing just last year, today the President was joined on stage by the Presidents, CEOs, or other top executives from Ford, Toyota, General Motors, Honda, Chrysler, BMW AG, Nissan, Mercedez-Benz, Mazda, Volkswagon, and the United Auto Workers to announce a new consensus.
In the course of his remarks, the President made clear that ending America’s dependence on fossil fuels will be one of the greatest challenges the country has faced, and that this is only one of steps already being taken to address it. However, he also made clear that this was a historic day:
Think about this. Consider how much has changed all around us. Think of how much faster our computers have become. Think about how much more productive our workers are. Think about how everything has been transformed by our capacity to see the world as it is, but also to imagine a world as it could be.
That's what's been missing in this debate for too long, and that's why this announcement is so important, for it represents not only a change in policy in Washington but the harbinger of a change in the way business is done in Washington. No longer will we accept the notion that our politics are too small, our nation too divided, our people too weary of broken promises and lost opportunities to take up a historic calling. No longer will we accept anything less than a common effort, made in good faith, to solve our toughest problems.
And that is what this agreement seeks to achieve.
Addressing those concerned about whether these changes would mean a higher cost for their cars, the President explained that any costs would be offset in just three years, and that "over the life of a vehicle, the typical driver would save about $2,800 by getting better gas mileage."
A top auto industry spokesman summed it up in a statement before the event began: "What's significant about the announcement is it launches a new beginning, an era of cooperation. The President has succeeded in bringing three regulatory bodies, 15 states, a dozen automakers and many environmental groups to the table… We're all agreeing to work together on a National Program."
Indeed, leaders from environmental groups were in the audience applauding. One environmental group put it the same way this morning that the President did this afternoon: "Everybody wins." The program covers model year 2012 to model year 2016 and ultimately requires an average fuel economy standard of 35.5 mpg in 2016 with a projected reduction in oil consumption of approximately 1.8 billion barrels over the life of the program. Or, in the President’s words, "more oil than we imported last year from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Libya, and Nigeria combined."
The President was also joined on stage by Carol M. Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, who helped spearhead what she called "an incredible step forward for our country"; EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, who noted that "A supposedly 'unsolvable' problem was solved by unprecedented partnerships"; and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who called the program "the biggest leap in history to make automobiles more fuel efficient."