Monday, January 26, 2009

Tightening Emissions Standards

I usually find the decentralized, state-dominated aspect of American government annoying. As a fan of a big centralized national government directing policy, it's easy to see the states as obstructionists dominated by petty local concerns and lobbyists. But sometimes the progressive states can lead the way on issues. In these cases, the federal government can use the states to its advantage, creating change without burning political capital.

Such is the case with Obama allowing California and other states to create their own, stricter, auto emissions standards
. The reality is that Detroit is not going to make different cars with different emissions rates. It is in their interest to make only one car. They hate the California law because it forces them to adopt far tougher standards, but if 13 states, representing nearly 1/2 the auto market in the U.S., are going to adapt lower emissions, it means Detroit is going to make all their cars this way. This is a huge environmental victory that the Bush administration opposed, and Obama is able to do this without spending one bit of political capital.