Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. The recession continues to roar along as corporations and consumers cut back everywhere from the board room to the living room.
According to the National Association of Realtors this is the best time since 1973 to purchase a home but home sales are at their lowest level since 1997.
The drop was reflected in estimates for the Gross Domestic Product. Though the final numbers come out next month, preliminary figures indicate a drop of 3.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008 -- the worst in 27 years. There was a bright spot as analysts predicted the amount would be even worse. Despite the grim news the estimated annual percentage rate increased by 1.3 percent.
And orders for durable goods, items like household appliances and automobiles, fell in December by 2.6 percent -- continuing a five-month slide.
Even in light of the dire news, Wall Street remained relatively even for the week closing just above 8000 on the Dow.
Amidst the economic doom and gloom, one environmental item did see an increase. Unfortunately it was greenhouse gasses or GHGs. According to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report, GHGs may have risen to a level that will affect the environment for nearly a thousand years. And as the report was released, President Obama continued to show commitment for his environmental agenda.
By signing two memoranda this week, President Obama eliminated a pair of Bush Administration orders restricting state governments from setting emission standards and halting changes to fuel efficiency averages.
The first memorandum directs the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, to assess a request from the Government of California to tighten the standard for greenhouse gas emissions from cars sold in the Golden State.
U.S. President Barack Obama: The days of Washington dragging its heels are over. My administration will not deny facts; we will be guided by them. We cannot afford to pass the buck or push the burden onto the states.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, R-Calif.: For too long, Washington has been asleep at the wheel when it comes to the environment. Now California finally has a partner and an ally in Washington at the White House.
And let me again be clear: This has absolutely nothing to do in punishing the automakers. As a matter of fact, what we want to do is just give them a little push to be innovative and to develop new techniques that will ultimately make better cars that will be more competitive around the world.
If EPA approves California's request, more than a dozen states and the District of Columbia also will be able to set emission standards that are more rigorous than federal law. However, all the states in question will be required to adopt the same set of standards approved for the Golden State.
Auto industry analysts responded with concern about the ability of carmakers to comply with conflicting state and federal rules. There also was some anxiety expressed over the potential cost of making more expensive "green" cars after a year in which car sales plummeted 18 percent.
The states hoping to take advantage of the new rule account for nearly half the auto sales in the United States.
The second memoranda directed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to publish a final rule increasing fuel efficiency standards. Originally adopted as law in 2007, all passenger cars and light trucks would be required to get 35 miles per gallon by 2011. Bush administration officials felt the argument put forth by automakers was sufficient to delay the standard from taking effect.
U.S. President Barack Obama: "Increasing fuel efficiency in our cars and trucks is one of the most important steps that we can take to break our cycle of dependence on foreign oil. It will also help spark the innovation needed to ensure that our auto industry keeps pace with competitors around the world."