What happened
President Obama is unveiling tougher fuel efficiency standards for new vehicles, and the nation’s first rules for tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gasses. The new fuel standards—similar to what California has been trying to enact since 2002—will require cars to get 39 mpg and light trucks 30 mpg by 2016, four years earlier than under 2007 legislation. (The Washington Post)

What the commentators said
Chalk up a “big victory” for environmentalists, said David Welch in BusinessWeek. “Carmakers will find a way to meet the new rules,” but its unclear how they’ll “make a buck” under them. The new hybrid and clean diesel engines will add thousands of dollars to the cost of each car, and “with cheap gasoline, consumers won’t pay up.”

The Obama plan sees gas at $3.50 a gallon by 2016, said Tom Walsh in the Detroit Free Press, but it hardly matters if the new cars’ drop in fuel costs makes up for their $1,300 price hike. The auto industry is in no position to say no. With GM and Chrysler “on the government dole,” they’ll “promise anything by 2016”—especially since they may not be around in 2010.

Automakers are dropping their “notoriously” virulent opposition to emissions standards for more than just political reasons, said Camille Rickets in VentureBeat. They’re also “satisfied” with getting nationwide fuel standards, so they don’t have to design separate California-compliant models, and a “more feasible timetable” than under California’s now-irrelevant policy.