In his first days at the nation's helm, President Barack Obama has made some bold statements that suggest a course markedly different from the one set by his predecessor. Not least among these was Obama's directive Monday ordering the Environmental Protection Agency to review California's and 13 other states' vehicle emission standards, as well as calling for new rules requiring carmakers to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles. Those steps indicate a refreshing - indeed essential - departure from the Bush administration's deep skepticism about policies designed to address climate change.
By calling for the review of states' emissions policies, Obama reversed a Bush-era resistance to allowing states to control their own air quality by means of limiting vehicle emissions, while simultaneously avoiding making federal rules. That inaction was based far more on politics than on science, which is showing - with growing consensus - the need for meaningful steps to slow climate change, regardless of its cause.
Obama's actions this week show his awareness of the problems caused by climate change and pressing call to do something about them today. Giving states a chance to address those issues can push automakers to invest in improved fuel efficiency and reduced emissions to the benefit of people, animals, water and air quality, habitats and environments around the globe.
Automakers' hand-wringing about increased costs to themselves and consumers is no longer reason enough to postpone these necessary improvements, and Obama has rightly forced the issue. It is about time.