Brace yourselves for a mess. The New York Times is reporting that the Obama administration intends to allow California and other states to set their own emissions and fuel economy standards. Obama is expected to announce his decision this week, maybe even as early as today. The move, which Obama campaigned on during the run up to last November's election, would overturn the prior Bush administration's denial of a waiver to California that allows the Golden State to set its own standards and other states to adopt them.
If the report is correct, it's not clear yet what the implications of the decision will be or how automakers will react. If things proceed in an orderly and organized fashion, it will be a minor miracle. Consumer experiences may well mirror what went on with diesels, most of which were recently unavailable in states adhering to California's stricter emissions standards.
Critics of state-administrated emissions standards fear that the potential for 50 different requirements will result in a costly quagmire. It will undoubtedly cost automakers more to conform to various and differing requirements, eating up profits (not to mention bailout funds) as well.