Already a week into his first term, President Barack Obama seems ready to come through on the promises he made about environmental policies. On Monday, Obama signed a presidential memorandum allowing California and 13 other states to implement stricter standards for automobile emissions. This is in line with efforts Obama outlined in his climate and energy saving plans. If the states decide to raise their standards there will be a reduction in the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which causes global warming. Though automakers may be uneasy about the prospect of having to produce more efficient cars, this is a great way for states to take emissions standards more seriously without having to raise the federal standards. California and the other states should take this opportunity to lead the country toward higher standards.

During the Bush administration, the Environmental Protection Agency refused to accept California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s request to raise the emissions standards for his state. But now Obama’s memorandum calls on the EPA to review the waiver of emission standards for California. The state’s proposed standard could reduce up to 30 percent of carbon dioxide emissions by 2016 — a healthy start toward achieving Obama’s promised reduction of emissions by 80 percent in 2050. The new law would give car companies until 2011 to start producing cars that abide by the new regulation.

Instead of changing the federal standard, states will now be able to choose whether to raise the bar like California or remain at the same level. This is a good way to allow certain states to get more serious about controlling emissions while permitting other states to wait until they’re ready. At the same time, automakers will have to start producing more efficient cars in order to satisfy the restrictions in the other states. Unless they manufacture a car for each state, they will have to build all their cars to meet the standards of the strictest states, possibly accomplishing the same thing as a federal standard without the hassle of having to implement one.

Detroit’s automakers expressed their concern about this regulation. But car companies have no right to complain because they’ve stalled on making the move to stricter standards for years. Customers want more environmentally friendly vehicles, and making better cars is a long-overdue priority for auto makers. Environmental concerns should be their focus, and this change in policy regarding emissions is a necessary nudge. Besides, moving in a greener direction is Michigan’s only hope. The state’s economic future is tied to adopting more responsible environmental policies, and that starts with the automakers.

Allowing California to move ahead with better emissions standards is a good way to begin making the country more green, but Obama must continue to push for environmentally sound policy in order to reach his necessary goal of an 80 percent reduction in emissions by 2050. With any hope, this new policy will pave the way for the rest of the country to adopt better standards.

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