President Obama's new fuel-economy rules are a Solomonic solution to a vast legal and moral and ethical question of how to wean ourselves from imported energy. It's not a permanent fix, though. While the Alliance of Auto Manufacturers suggests that the new rules will end the debate between states over who sets air-quality standards, there's no legislation to back that up. Any future governor of California could seek a 50-mpg standard, or 100-mpg standard--and then we'll be back where we are today.
It all comes down to CAFE. Badly written from the start in 1975, CAFE is at best, a fig leaf for Congress to hide behind while it declines to make us all pay a universal carbon tax that tapers our desire for energy from crude oil and points out the cost of national defense, dollars to donuts. Obama's update of the policy solves a couple of political problems, but it doesn't change the basics of a poorly written set of rules that now are poised to nail car shoppers in both directions, new and used.