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Obama hails deal on mileage, pollution plan

world Updated: May 20, 2009 10:31 IST
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Shifting away from the policies of his conservative predecessor, President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced America's first program melding tougher rules on vehicle greenhouse gas emissions with stiffer efficiency standards to cut oil consumption.

The two-pronged approach to environmental threats marks Obama's latest moves away from President George W. Bush, who was frequently criticized as ignoring evidence of global warming.

The president hailed the deal for gaining the acceptance of diverse interest groups, an accord that would once have been considered impossible, and congratulated them for producing a "harbinger of a change in the way business is done in Washington."

The ceremony in the White House's Rose Garden brought together longtime adversaries in the auto industry, the environmental lobby and state government.

California state Sen. Fran Pavley, who wrote the 2002 law that required auto companies to reduce tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases, sat next to Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, a longtime champion of his home state's auto industry.

Nearby, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who has defended General Motors and Chrysler as they struggle with government aid, sat next to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was once depicted in a Detroit billboard that read: "Arnold to Michigan: Drop Dead!"

"While the United States makes up less than 5 percent of the world's population, we create roughly a quarter of the world's demand for oil. And this appetite comes at a tremendous price," said the president, who was surrounded by leading members of Congress, the industry and the auto workers union. He said the new rules amounted to removing 177 million cars from the roads over the next 6 1/2 years.

In that period, the savings in oil burned to fuel American cars, trucks and buses would amount to last year's combined U.S. imports from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Libya and Nigeria.

"As a result of this agreement," Obama said, "we will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the vehicles sold in the next five years."