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Tony Fratto: Obama Gets Mileage Driving the Bush Model


President Obama is being hailed this morning in news reports for cutting a deal with the state of California and automakers to raise fuel economy standards for cars- so called CAFE standards - reportedly in opposition to Bush Administration policy.

In fact, Obama is upholding President Bush's principled policy that CAFE standards should be nationwide, and not a patchwork of differing standards across the country.

In 2007 President Bush proposed setting new CAFE standardsfor autos after having already enacted the first such standards for light trucks earlier in his Administration. In response, Congress passed legislation with new standards -- albeit weaker than those proposed by President Bush.

California sought a federal waiver to set its own standards that they claimed to be more aggressive, and that would have shouldered troubled automakers with new costs.

The Bush Administration opposed the waiver, rightly determining that forcing automakers to produce drastically different vehicles for some states was dumb and costly.

Joined by a smattering of other states, California filed suit seeking to achieve the waiver. Automakers filed to maintain a national standard.

By settling the lawsuits with an agreement on new CAFE standards, the Obama Administration is forcing California and other states to adhere to a federal, nationwide standard -- precisely the principle of the Bush Administration.

Of course, as the Obama Administration now owns auto companies, they'll be in the unique position of also trying to meet those standard, and cars will be a lot more expensive a lot sooner.

Good luck with that.

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Tony Fratto is a CNBC on-air contributor and most recently served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Press Secretary for the Bush Administration.