Speaking at the Society of Automotive Engineers 2009 World Congress on Monday, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the U.S. needs a clear energy policy so automakers can develop cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles. Schwarzenegger argued that as a result of the lack of leadership in Washington, it comes as no surprise that car manufacturers were unable to move forward with the development of such vehicles more quickly.

With the Obama administration now working to create a vision for U.S. energy policy, Schwarzenegger said he wants California to lead the country when it comes to setting low emission standards. He said the nation should have one set of emission standards, but was not specific as to whether California would loosen its requirements to accomplish that.

It is clear to me that a consistent national emissions standard must come as a result of a compromise, not a level imposed by California or any other state requesting to set their own limits. What is currently being pushed by California and other states would have the effect of moving the entire country to the lowest level approved in any single state. We do not do this with any other nationwide business, why should we do it with one of our most important industries? Separate emission standards for different states would have a direct negative impact on the automotive industry and the economy more generally and would set a terrible precedent for the future of interstate commerce in this country.

Schwarzenegger also volunteered to be the first to do a free advertisement promoting the automotive industry. This may be the best thing he can do for the nation today, especially in light of speculation that General Motors’ will announce that it is closing its plants for up to nine weeks this summer.

In related news, the Associated Press reported on Friday that Dave McCurdy, head of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, announced that automakers are “ahead of the curve” when it comes to cutting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses.