This week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held its first hearings in response to California’s long-standing request to implement landmark global warming emissions standards for new automobiles. Under the Clean Air Act (CAA), California is permitted to set higher vehicle emissions standards than the federal government, with other states given the option to enact either the federal or the California standard. By affirming EPA’s authority to regulate global warming pollutants under the CAA in Mass. v. EPA, the Supreme Court placed California’s own efforts to do so under the CAA on solid legal footing. California and thirteen other states -- comprising some forty percent of the U.S. auto market -- have shown bold leadership on global warming by enacting these standards and continue to wait for the EPA to grant them the waiver they need to move forward.

EPA should give California its Clean Air Act waiver immediately. Instead of sitting in neutral until the last days of 2008, it’s well past time for the Bush administration to get out of the way and let these states shift the fight against global warming into high gear.

Yet as evidence continues to mount about the effects of global warming that we are already experiencing and the severe consequences yet to come if we fail to act, EPA continues to equivocate about whether it will allow California to implement its landmark global warming emissions standards for new vehicles. The thirteen other states that have followed California’s lead also continue to wait. There have been over forty such requests in the past and EPA has never denied a single one. The law and the science on this issue are clear.

Scientists tell us that we need to reduce our global warming emissions 80 percent by 2050, which we can achieve through an annual average reduction of 2 percent. The visionary policies embraced by California and other states across the country are paving the way toward meeting this goal by promoting the smart energy solutions that are indispensable in the fight against global warming.  Clean cars will certainly be a major part of the coming new energy economy -- if the Bush administration isn't going to take decisive action itself, the least they can do is step out of the way.