UPDATE: More great points on the energy bill from David Roberts, writing over at the Guardian's Comment Is Free, and pointing out that the industry-favored "20 in 10" plan cited by the White House called for preempting California and other states. California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have also written the White House to reiterate their opposition to preemption, whether it is directed at the EPA or at the state directly.
The LA Times reported today that despite the White House's veto threat, some remained optimistic that an incomplete energy bill raising CAFE standards for the first time in years might be signed into law, citing the auto industry's reversal and indicators that the White House is most adamantly opposed to provisions that appear likely to be removed or weakened in order to overcome Senate opposition.
We're betting that the Times' sources didn't have time, before the paper went to print, to read the official Statement of Administration Policy (S.A.P.) that accompanied yesterday's veto threat. Reading through that document, it becomes pretty clear that when it comes to CAFE and multiple other areas, the White House has decided that any bill that doesn't closely resemble its industry-preferred "20 in 10" plan is unacceptable.
It also becomes clear in the process that the auto industry's position hasn't really changed that much, to an extent that its perfectly reasonable to suspect that it's using the CAFE concession to do a bit of greenwashing. Even though the auto industry has supposedly "changed its tune" by endorsing the House bill, the administration is still very much carrying its water by using its strongest language to date about the need for a "single national regulatory standard" and making one agency the "sole entity" responsible for it.
Still not convinced? Well, it's also worth noting again that similar rhetoric continues to be spouted by the broader business community and the otherwise-chastened Rep. Dingell; that Vice President Cheney has publicly expressed his gentlemanly disappointment that Dingell caved to Speaker Pelosi; and that the industry continus to pursue its preemption lawsuits unhindered. And an even more telling sentence from White House's policy memo seals the deal:
The bill also could delay effective implementation of new fuel economy requirements due to inevitable litigation.
Translation: the same carmakers who endorsed this bill are going to sue the government if it actually becomes law.
A year ago, the industry was saying that any government attempt to mandate cleaner cars would be disastrous and unacceptable, so the sea change in its position is undeniable and worth recognizing. But seeing that this latest concession has come in a context where the industry probably knew ahead of time that nothing concrete would come of it, due to reasons rooted in its own ongoing objections and legal gambits, we humbly beg readers' pardon for not completely buying the transformation.