In a decision sure to please global warming true believers and further incense skeptics, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has officially declared that greenhouse gases (GHGs) are a threat to both public health and the environment. In making the statement, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson stressed that: "The findings do not in and of themselves impose any emission reduction requirements but rather allow EPA to finalize the GHG standards proposed earlier this year for new light-duty vehicles as part of the joint rulemaking with the Department of Transportation." Although not impacting the 35.5 mpg fleet average by 2016 that has already been approved by the Obama administration, this latest EPA dictum is certain to give rise to additional bureaucratic regulation. According to the National Organization of Manufacturers, it's also likely to have negative impact on overall industry competitiveness.

The EPA's final pronouncement responds to a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision that found GHGs fall within the Clean Air Act definition of air pollutants. Its endangerment ruling cites six key greenhouse gases as being the primary culprits: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride. It also finds that on-road vehicles are significant contributors to that overall threat, contributing more than 23 percent of the total GHGs emitted in the U.S. each year. The EPA says its proposed standards for light-duty vehicles -- a subset of all on-road vehicles -- would reduce GHG emissions by nearly 950 million metric tons and conserve 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of model year 2012-2016 vehicles.

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