Just weeks ago, Congress passed a bipartisan plan to boost the nation's fuel economy, President Bush signed it into law, and the head of the Environmental Protection Agency touted its sweeping ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
And now, Mitt Romney has won victory in the Michigan primary in part by pledging to throw it out the window. Part of his campaign pitch to the economically struggling city of Detroit was that fuel economy standards should be phased in slowly.
The new fuel economy rules amount to the first increase in efficiency in a generation, and they would boost the average mileage of new vehicles from about 25 mpg to 35 mpg by 2020.
The North American Auto Show in Detroit this week demonstrated that automakers either see the writing on the wall or think they need to improve efficiency to compete. Anyway, green was the theme, as every automaker touted its latest hybrid gas-electric models and pledged to introduce new technologies and alternative fuels.
As governor of Massachusetts, Romney signed a law adopting California's vehicle emissions standards, the greenhouse gas law that has been caught up in court battles for years. The EPA argued that national fuel economy standards were the better way to tackle global warming, rather than have a state-by-state "patchwork." That didn't bother Romney as governor, but now he talks about even the less-stringent federal standards approved by Congress as being an "anvil" weighing down the struggling auto industry as it tries to tread water.
As governor, Romney also rejected a state-level, Republican-led bipartisan plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants in Northeastern states.
He's been criticized for following polls to his positions on a range of issues; the wisdom of strict new fuel economy standards is only the latest. What he would do for the environment (or to it) if president anyone's guess.
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