President-Elect Obama About To Give Detroit Some Tough Love. Perhaps.
Soon after Inauguration Day, President-elect Barack Obama is expected to reverse about 200 Bush administration executive orders. One ot watch: a reversal of the December 2007 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA ) ruling prohibiting the enactment of California Assembly Bill 1493 (pdf). Passed back in 2002, AB1493 mandates a 30 percent reduction in car and truck carbon dioxide emissions starting in model year 2009. Depending on who’s doing the math, calculations suggest that California’s law would mandate a fleet average of about 40mpg. That’s about five mpg higher than the EPA’s latest Corporate Avererage Fleet Economy (CAFE) target. There is a loophole for small-volume manufacturers, but volume carmakers are going to be pissed as as hell (they lobbied heavily for the primacy of the EPA ruling). As expected, Obama has come out in favor of aiding the US automakers ASAP. Will the automakers plead poverty and ask for a delay in reversing the AB1493 ruling? Of course.
Wouldn't they just apply the rules to the 2010 model year? Or is that no good with an executive order? What is with this "executive order" thing, anyways? What's the point of Congress if the President can do that?
This may save the government a bunch of money, since California was very likely to win the court battle against the EPA, but the timing could hardly be worse for Detroit. Still, it's an administrative action which makes me wonder how Obama could immediately switch the denial of the Clean Air Act waiver request. At first blush, it seems that would make Obama as guilty as W. in interfering with the agency, but of course, the rumor is that the evidence in EPA's possession was in favor of granting the waiver in the first place. Maybe I'll have to take another look at the waiver provisions in the CAA, but it surprises me that Obama could directly get involved here.
CarShark-Congress writes the laws (and then the president signs them), but the president and his administration have to implement them. There's a certain amount of latitude in the implemenation of any law. Executive orders are about the implemenation of said laws. Now, in some cases, they do come close to writing and/or ignoring said laws, especially in Bush's case, but Obama will do that to. For example, medical marijuana is against Federal law, but I bet Obama will issue an executive order prohibiting Federal law enforcement from attempting to stop it. As for this specific executive order, Obama will be in a bind between catering to the enviromentalists and the unions. The CS Monitor link above states that the average fuel economy for California will be 44 MPG by 2020, which is so far in the future that even if Obama signs it I don't think it will affect things all that much short term, especially since others could repeal it between now and then.
Not sure why this is characterized as 'helping the domestic automakers'? What maker -- domestic or not -- can field a fleet with 40mpg average in 2009, or 2010? Nobody. This is a stupid law. It's hard to think of anything worse for business than an important, cost-driving regulation that varies from state to state. As has been said here time after time after time . . . if the government wants better fuel economy / lower CO2 emissions, then raise the gas tax. California can certainly do that . . . raise the gas tax by $2-3 per gallon, since we've seen that $4+ gas makes a difference in consumer behavior. But no, that would hurt politically, so instead they pass a stupid law like this. They used to predict that an earthquake was going to shake California into the Pacific . . . I sure wish it would happen already . . .