Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search

New auto standards: the start of Obama's green revolution

The new regulations on fuel economy and tailpipe emissions announced Tuesday are 'part of a far larger effort,' he said.

(Page 2 of 2)

One analysis forecasts a bright future for green jobs. The number of jobs tied to renewable energy or energy efficiency could surge in the next two decades to more than four times the 8.5 million jobs supported by those sectors in 2006, according to projections by the American Solar Energy Society. These numbers include indirect jobs such as accountants and truck drivers employed by clean-energy ventures.

Skip to next paragraph

John Challenger, an employment expert at the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas in Chicago, endorses such projections. The demand could hinge on oil prices as well as federal policies, but green-collar jobs “could present the best career opportunities for a generation of college graduates,” Mr. Challenger says.

Whether or not Obama's plans for a green partnership between the government and private firms work in the long run, he and his team have built early momentum.

He gestured to governors, environmentalists, auto executives, and labor union leaders who flanked him in the White House Rose Garden, saying, “some of the groups here have been embroiled in lawsuits against one another” or have been at odds for decades.

Now, he said, “these leaders from across the country are willing to set aside the past for the sake of the future.”

The diverse group supports the new fuel-economy target for different reasons. For environmentalists, the regulations are a clear victory. But car companies also gain a simpler and more predictable regimen at a time when they are streamlining their product lineups and downsizing. Before the announcement, California and 13 other states had been seeking to establish their own standard. Now, Obama's plan will make that standard a national benchmark.

The scene in the Rose Garden Tuesday echoed Obama’s appearance with healthcare industry officials on May 11, at which he celebrated their commitment to reduce the future pace of price hikes for medical care – for a savings to the nation worth $2 trillion in the next decade, they said.

The public tone of both accords is a collegial affirmation of Obama's “Yes, we can” mantra. In both cases, there is the prospect of large benefits – for the environment or for consumers. Yet in both cases, questions remain about how to actually hit the target.

A group representing automakers, for example, praised Obama’s plan, but said more work is needed to bring it to fruition.

“We have the broad outlines of an agreement, but we will need to work closely with [federal agencies] and California in the rulemaking process to resolve multiple issues,” said Dave McCurdy, president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, in a statement. “And we are going to need Americans to buy our clean, fuel-efficient autos in large numbers in order to meet this climate change commitment.”