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. Right now, the rules governing fuel economy in this country are inadequate, uncertain, and in flux. First, there is the standard for fuel economy administered by the Department of Transportation. On top of that, the Environmental Protection Agency, in response to a decision by the Supreme Court, may have to set limits on greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles — establishing another standard. California has sought permission under the Clean Air Act to require that vehicles sold in California meet yet another even stricter emission rule. And 13 states and the District of Columbia have agreed to adopt California greenhouse gas reductions if the permission — called a waiver — is granted.
Car companies might then face three different sets of overlapping requirements, one administered by the Department of Transportation, one administered by the EPA, and still a third administered by California and 13 other states. This proposed national policy, under the leadership of two agencies — and bringing together 14 states, 10 companies, as well as auto workers and environmental groups — changes all that. The goal is to set one national standard that will rapidly increase fuel efficiency — without compromising safety — by an average of 5 percent each year between 2012 and 2016, building on the 2011 standard my administration set shortly after taking office.
A series of major lawsuits will be dropped in support of this new national standard. The state of California has also agreed to support this standard — and I want to applaud California and Governor Schwarzenegger and the entire California delegation for their extraordinary leadership. They have led the way on this as they have in so many other efforts to protect our environment. In addition, because the Department of Transportation and EPA will adopt the same rule, we will avoid an inefficient and ineffective system of regulations that separately govern the fuel economy of autos and the carbon emissions they produce.
And at a time of historic crisis in our auto industry, when domestic auto manufacturers are making painful choices and restructuring their businesses to be viable in the future, 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.