Mary D. Nichols– Mary D. Nichols is Chairman of the California Air Resources Board, the lead agency for implementing California’s landmark climate change law, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. The views expressed are her own. –

After eight years of inaction on climate change by the federal government, we can now look forward to the Obama administration tackling global warming head on. With not a minute to lose, Lisa Jackson, the soon-to-be new head of the EPA, should move quickly to capitalize on the momentum of states that have so far been the leaders in fighting global warming. There is no better place to start than by establishing a national greenhouse gas emission standard for automobiles based on California’s landmark clean car law.

California has always been a pioneer in setting tough automobile emission standards. Our regulations paved the way for lead-free gas, the catalytic converter, and many other innovations that were later adopted as the national standard. As a result, we have eliminated 99 percent of harmful pollution pouring out of autos today compared to a 1960s era car, leading to clearer skies and cleaner air in our cities.

In 2002, California continued its track record of pioneering environmental legislation when it passed a law that directly addressed greenhouse gas emissions from cars. Personal vehicles produce 20 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gases, and so are increasingly being addressed by governments that are serious about averting catastrophic climate change. Thirteen other states have formally adopted and three states are considering adoption of California’s cost-effective and technologically doable program.

Indeed, the motivation is not only environmental – owners of these cars will save thousands of dollars over the vehicle’s life because cars that meet the standard are also likely to be more fuel efficient.