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

New auto standards: the start of Obama’s green revolutionThe new regulations on fuel economy and tailpipe emissions announced

Tuesday are 'part of a far larger effort,' he said.(By Mark Trumbull via The Christian Science Monitor)President Obama’s announcement on tailpipe emissions Tuesday reaffirmed a

commitment that goes beyond regulation of the auto industry. The move is

part of a broader White House strategy to confront the risk of global

warming while making green-collar jobs a centerpiece of the economy.For ordinary Americans, the resulting changes could be far-reaching.

Lighter-weight vehicles appear likely to become more popular. More tax

dollars are being tabbed for clean-energy technology. And for years to

come, college students might find that some of the hottest job

opportunities lie in helping to keep the planet cool.“The agreement we have announced today is part of a far larger effort,” Mr.

Obama said Tuesday as he unveiled plans to tighten carbon emissions from US

cars for the first time. As a part of the plan, average fuel economy must

reach 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. He also called for additional

“historic investments in a clean-energy economy.”The strategy is an ambitious one for a nation in recession, a government

running record budget deficits, and a president who is also pursuing reform

of America’s costly healthcare system.But Obama contends that the best way out of an economic funk is to look

forward to the technologies that might potentially drive the economy in

years ahead.He became salesman-in-chief Tuesday, saying that savings on fuel costs will

allow consumers to recoup the costs of the emissions upgrade within three

years of a new car purchase.The potential rewards for the environment and energy security are

significant, too. The auto industry accounts for 17 percent of man-made

carbon dioxide emissions in the US. Obama said his plan will reduce US oil

consumption by an amount equal to a year’s imports from four major

oil-supplying nations, including Saudi Arabia.Still, that forecast also illustrates how far the US has to go if it is

going to lead the world toward a reduced-carbon future. The auto policy is

just a first step.Congress is also considering “cap and trade” legislation to limit carbon

emissions economy-wide. It would set up a system for trading emission

allowances so that the private marketplace can use available fossil fuels

most efficiently.Supporters say that the environmental benefits of cap and trade and

automotive-emissions standards far outweigh the cost. Critics such as

congressional Republicans say the plan could damage economic growth at a

time when the nation is struggling through a recession. While Obama

highlights the potential creation of green jobs, critics cite studies

forecasting a net loss of jobs due to cap and trade.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.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 a