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Obama to launch landmark auto emissions standards

The plan will establish nationwide benchmarks for carbon emissions and fuel efficiency.

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Traffic moves along the Santa Monica Freeway in Los Angeles in this July 3, 2008 photo. The Bush administration blocked California from imposing its own regulations on greenhouse-gas emissions from automobiles. Now, the Obama administration is using California's template as a national standard.

Kevork Djansezian/AP/File

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President Obama is moving to regulate, for the first time, one of the world’s biggest sources of greenhouse-gas emissions: the cars and trucks on US roads.

That plan, as outlined in news reports Monday, would represent a major regulatory shift affecting the environment, a struggling industry, and millions of American consumers.

Mr. Obama is expected to announce the details Tuesday, calling for both a reduction in carbon emissions and a stepped up timetable for improving traditional fuel economy. US fleets will have to average 35 miles per gallon by 2016, four years faster than currently planned. The current average is 27.5 miles per gallon.

The president’s plan is also designed to bring the whole country under a single standard, moving away from a patchwork system that could become increasingly difficult for car manufacturers. California and 12 other states had already attempted to set up their own regulatory standard for greenhouse-gas emissions.

Together, the moves highlight the importance of two priorities for the Obama administration: improving US energy efficiency and acting to control climate change.

At the same time, the effort poses challenges for another key White House goal: reviving the economy. It promises to add to sticker prices at car dealerships at a time when car sales – an important part of the US retail economy – have plunged 40 percent in the past year. And the move will demand new investments by carmakers, even as those firms are shedding tens of thousands of workers and fighting for survival.

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