Cash-strapped U.S. automakers took a U-turn and welcomed a move by President Barack Obama to potentially tighten emissions standards in the hope that it will free up research funds and simplify a patchwork of US regulations. Obama on Monday ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider its rejection of an attempt by California to impose new emissions regulations which are significantly more restrictive than federal standards.
Obama also ordered the Transportation Department to produce the guidelines to enforce a 2007 law which requires US cars to reach average fuel efficiency of 35 miles per gallon by 2020.
“Our goal is not to further burden an already struggling industry; it is to help America’s automakers prepare for the future,” Obama said.
“As we move forward, we will fully take into account the unique challenges facing the American auto industry and the taxpayer dollars that now support it.”
California has for years had tougher standards and twelve other states follow its lead.
Automakers began fighting the rejected rules before they were even written and claim they would require a wholesale downsizing of the US automobile fleet.
But on Monday, they greeted Obama’s announcement without complaint and said they were ready to work with his administration.
After being vilified in Congress, GM (NYSE: GM – news) and Chrysler were last month granted 13.4 billion dollars in emergency loans from the US government as they struggle to survive a collapse in auto sales amid a deepening recession.
They, along with Ford, are also in the midst of submitting requests to access 25 billion dollars in loans to help fund the development of more fuel-efficient vehicles in accordance with the new rules.
General Motors said Monday it is working aggressively on technology that “matches the nation’s and consumers’ priorities to save energy and reduce emissions.”
“We look forward to contributing to a comprehensive policy discussion that takes into account the development pace of new technologies, alternative fuels and market and economic factors,” GM said in a statement.
GM officials said privately that they hope the review ultimately leads to a comprehensive US energy (NASDAQ: USEG – news) policy in which automotive fuel-economy is only one element.
The review should also help free up money for additional research and development, they said.
“There is money available,” said one GM official, who asked not to be identified.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents 11 different Asian, European and US carmakers, said it hopes the review leads to one nationwide standard.
“The Alliance supports a nationwide program that bridges state and federal concerns and moves all stakeholders forward,” president Dave McCurdy said in a statement.
“We are ready to work with the Administration on developing a national approach.”
Some Republican opponents, however, were quick to attack Obama’s move as a devastating blow to an already crippled industry.
“Today’s announcements will absolutely destroy jobs in Michigan,” said Michigan congressman Mike Rogers.
“With the stroke of a pen, the President has unleashed a hornet’s nest of new local, state and federal regulations on the auto industry. There is no way to know how much money this will cost taxpayers and workers, but we can be certain that it makes a bad situation worse.”
Environmentalists, however, say the current rules are too lax and cite a Department of Transportation analysis which shows automakers can meet the average fuel efficiency goal by 2015, five years earlier than currently required.
After years of battling the Bush administration on climate change issues, environmentalists had high praise for Obama.
“Amidst the array of challenges facing his administration, President Obama’s actions today send a clear signal to America and the world that his administration will play a leadership role on energy and global warming,” said Phyllis Cuttino, who directs the Pew Environment Group’s global warming campaign.
Cash-strapped – very short of money; even a large firm or city council can be “cash-strapped” because they do not have enough money to do the things that they want or need to do.
automakers – a word used in American English to mean manufacturers of cars. Well-known automakers include: Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Ford, Chrysler, General Motors, Rolls-Royce, Jaguar and LandRover.
U-turn – a U-turn is literally turning round one’s car and driving back along the same road in the opposite direction. Figuratively, U-turn means a reversal of policy. For example, if political leaders said that they would never agree to something and then they changed their mind and accepted the proposal, you could say say they “made a U-turn”.
emissions – the gases that are emitted by engines. Common emissions include carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. Most scientists say that carbon emissions are harmful because they pollute the air that we breathe and are damaging to the environment.
emissions standards – in this context, “standards” are the rules which specify limits to how much polution a vehicle is allowed to produce. Car manufacturers have to produce cars which meet the emissions standards in the country where they sell their cars. Some countries have stricter standards than others.
to potentially tighten emissions standards – potentially here means “has the power or ability to do something”; in other words it seems likely that emissions standards will be tightened, but not certain.
to free up research funds – to release money that is intended to pay for research.
35 miles per gallon (or 35 mpg) is a U.S. and Imperial measure of the distance a car can travel for a certain amount of fuel. A mile is about 1.6Km and a gallon is roughly 4.5 liters. In many countries, fuel consumption is expressed differently, e.g. 9.6 L/100km. This expresses how much fuel is needed to cover a set distance.
downsizing – downsizing is a recent word that means to reduce something in size. If a firm downsizes it means they close some factories and offices.
wholesale downsizing – closing a lot of factories and offices. Wholesale means done on a large scale, involving large numbers, widespread not exceptional.
a struggling industry – the car industry is said to be struggling or fighting for survival because it is not selling enough cars to pay its workers and suppliers and make a profit.
to follow someone’s lead – to copy the example set by someone; to emulate or pursue the same policy or methods.
greeted – literally to greet someone is to say “Hello” or “Good morning” for example when you meet them. In this article, where it says: “… they greeted Obama’s announcement without complaint …” it means that the response to the President’s astatement was positive; they welcomed it or at least did not disagree with it.
to work with – literally this means to work alongside other people (e.g. Tom works with Jack at the car factory). In this article, to work with is used figuratively to mean to cooperate with or not to fight against.
This article is reproduced for language learning practice. Copyright acknowledged.