You might disagree with his methods, but you can't deny President Obama's determination to improve the U.S. car industry's situation and to remedy the nation's current energy policy. Part of both plans is a rise in the fuel economy requirements to 27.3mpg fleet-wide by 2011.

It's actually a step back from the 27.8mpg standard proposed under the Bush Administration last April, but that may be in recognition of the struggle going on at General Motors and Chrysler, and to a lesser degree, the rest of the industry.

The increases still mean a rise of 2.7mpg for passenger cars and 1.0mpg for pickups and SUVs. That's a 10% improvement on cars, for those keeping score - a significant figure for such a short time frame. The 4% figure for pickups is less aggressive, but will still require new technology both in powering the vehicles and in building them lighter, without losing functionality.

Even though the new fuel economy floor is lower than what had been proposed, some environmental groups are still in favor of the measure, in part because of future promises made by the industry, effectively balancing out the small concession made in the short term.

“The bad news is that the 27.3 mpg standard means that they’ll have to make up for it in future years,” Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, told Bloomberg. “The goods news is that they have promised that they will.”

Whatever the eventual outcome of the decision in terms of climate change, its economic change that is the current pressing issue. And coming to a clear and certain decision about the requirements for 2011 gives automakers a definite goal. Perhaps the new standards will give new life to the small and hybrid cars abandoned by the market of late.