TAPPER: Robert, you — you spoke earlier about the Journal story and one of the 13 banks that got TARP funds but has not been lending money more so in the fourth quarter than in the third quarter is Citigroup. Citigroup is spending $50 million on a new corporate jet. And I’m wondering if President Obama, the Obama administration has a position on whether or not corporations that are getting tens of billions of dollars — tens of billions of dollars in these funds should be refraining from expenses such as these or corporate executive compensation. And, about the announcements President Obama made today, one of the reasons, of course, why these CAFE standards and emission vehicle standards, one of these actions have been — have not happened yet is because of the concern that it would hurt the ailing auto industry. How can President Obama ensure that these moves will not cost jobs?
GIBBS: Let’s split these questions up and take a few moments. Obviously, the president believes that great care should be used anytime the taxpayers’ money is being used to do something for the greater good, particularly injecting capital into banks so that they can lend money. The president said this during the transition, as it related to the auto companies using private jets; doesn’t believe that’s the best use of money at this point. Instead, that money should be used to lend to consumers to get the economy moving again, to free up capital and credit, and help small businesses create jobs. He said that as it relates to the auto industry, and he believes that as it relates to banks as well.
Let me now address your second question, which is fuel efficiency standards. And understand that the debate on fuel efficiency standards is not one that started last fall. It didn’t even start in the last decade. This is a — you know, 27-year, 30-year-old debate, back and forth, about auto — auto mileage standards. The particular action that the president took today was to take legislation that Congress approved in December of 2007, and President Bush signed, and in January of 2009 implement changed CAFE standards for model year 2011. So, I don’t think it comes as any surprise to automakers or consumers that a change in our fuel mileage standards was on the horizon. In fact, between December of 2007 and October of 2010, which is when manufacturers begin the next model year, we believe — and I’ve seen testimony from the auto companies — that changing those fuel mileage standards is certainly doable. The president wants to work with the auto industry to ensure that the fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow are produced and built here in America for Americans to buy. And I think that working — government working with the auto industry can ensure that we have a sustainable path toward the production of more fuel-efficient autos; that those fuel-efficient autos will be more appealing to American consumers, and that that can be a win-win for both.
The actions that the president took today put us on the path, when we realize a fuel efficiency standard of 35 miles to the gallon — its 27.5 now — 35 miles to the gallon — will constitute a savings of 2 million barrels of oil a day, which is roughly comparable to the amount of oil that we import each day from the Persian Gulf. So the president is taking the actions of Congress, ensuring that we take bold, demonstrative steps toward energy independence and reducing what we are forced to import every day from countries, many of whom don’t like us.