As expected, environmental groups hailed the announcement as a "thrilling moment," and one that will leave "behind our failed fossil fuel policies."
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a moderate Republican, applauded Obama's request to Jackson, even though Florida is not one of the states in line to get a waiver, but he added that "The waiver is a critical aspect for California, Florida and 17 other states which have adopted, or are in the process of adopting, automobile emissions standards."
California Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also praised the move, saying in a written statement that, "With this announcement from President Obama less than a week into his administration, it is clear that California and the environment now have a strong ally in the White House. Allowing California and other states to aggressively reduce their own harmful vehicle tailpipe emissions would be a historic win for clean air and for millions of Americans who want more fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly cars."
California sought to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles by 30 percent by 2016, but its request for a waiver was rejected by the former Republican administration.
Other Republicans were not so happy. House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the decision could hurt American jobs, given Detroit's struggles.
"The president's action today is disappointing," Boehner said. "The effect of this policy will be to destroy American jobs at the very time government leaders should be working together to protect and create them. Millions of American jobs will be placed in further jeopardy if automakers are forced to spend billions to comply with potentially dozens of different emissions standards in dozens of different states."
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also criticized Obama's memoranda.
"At a time when we need to jump start our economy, regulating CO2 in this manner would stop most of President Obama's stimulus proposal cold in its tracks and create a regulatory train wreck," William Kovacs a vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement. "In addition, such a move would put the EPA one step closer to making carbon dioxide 'subject to regulation' under the Act. This would ... have the unintended consequence of creating costly and burdensome permitting requirements on millions of construction projects, including hospitals, schools, and office buildings."
Obama's memoranda today bear few surprises. The president has reiterated that energy and environment issues will be a top priority in his administration, and today's actions affirm he will invest some of his time and political capital into this issue.
"He feels the need to get moving in some areas where he thinks things can be done relatively soon," said Michael A. Levi, senior fellow for energy and environment at the Council of Foreign Relations.
This may be a welcome move to many Americans. In an ABC News/Washington Post poll, 41 percent of Americans said clean power should be the "highest priority" item in stimulus spending.
But Obama's push to create more fuel-efficient cars domestically and boost the economy through his stimulus package comes at a time when automakers continue to struggle to keep their operations and layoffs continue to deter the financial climate.