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Obama wants stronger fuel-efficiency rules

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President Obama on Monday took the first step to reverse Bush energy and global warming policies, saying his administration will pay attention to science and paving the way for California, Maryland and other states to set their own tough car fuel efficiency standards.

While never mentioning his predecessor by name, Mr. Obama was brutal in assessing President Bush's approach to energy and the environment, and promised to make good on years of promises to reduce U.S. use of foreign oil.

"The days of Washington dragging its feet are over. My administration will not deny facts, we will be guided by them," Mr. Obama said in signing presidential directives in a ceremony in the White House East Room.

Mr. Obama said the new policies will send a signal to the world that the U.S. is now ready to lead a worldwide effort to combat global warming.

"We have made our choice -- America will not be held hostage by dwindling resources, hostile regimes and climate change," Mr. Obama said.

California and other states had asked the Environmental Protection Agency for waivers to have higher fuel efficiency standards than the national policy, but the Bush administration denied the requests, arguing a single national standard was the better approach.

Mr. Obama has asked his EPA to re-review the requests, and it is almost certain they will now be approved.

"These are monumental decisions that will have an immediate impact in reducing global warming pollution in the United States," said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

But auto-state lawmakers said they were worried.

"I am fearful that today's action will begin the process of setting the American auto industry back even further," said Sen. George V. Voinovich, Ohio Republican. "The federal government should not be piling on an industry already hurting in a time like this."

Mr. Obama, though, said the goal is not to harm the already-reeling auto industry, but rather to push it to make fuel-efficient cars.

The move by Mr. Obama is also a nod at federalism --something usually more popular among conservative politicians. The president said the federal government "must start working with, not against, states."

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