Waxman Dingell fight for chair of Energy and Commerce Committee

November 7, 2008 at 5:29 pm | Posted in Climate change, Environment | Leave a comment
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Waxman vs. Dingell

ACT I

The story begins with an attempt to move climate change action up the agenda, by means of a challenge by Waxman for the role of Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce Committee, currently held by Dingell.  See yesterday’s FT article (full text below the fold):

Energy policy caught in tussle

This post-election tale illustrates how hard it is to get the change that’s obviously and sorely needed.  The car industry in America is struggling because it has ignored the need to change for the better, and in so doing has sought to defy its own extinction.  The outlook is undeniably bleak for US automakers, as noted in Bloomberg’s latest:

GM Says It May Run Out of Operating Cash This Year (Update4)

A top headline in the New York Times today is:

G.M. Says U.S. Cash Is Its Best Hope

The US auto industry is out-of-date and out of steam and has to be allowed to die … but instead GM is going cap-in-hand to the government for a bailout package.  Oh dear.  Think again.  This would prolong the agony at taxpayers’ expense.  Let bankruptcy happen, while remaining fully aware of the disastrous consequences.   Throw your energies and financing into good prospects for the future; release the past.

Consider the opportunity if, instead of bailing out companies that failed to keep pace with innovation and global market requirements, alternative transport industries could emerge, phoenix-like, after the collapse.  America could then focus on realignment, and set its sights on leading, for example, the electric vehicle market as an integral part of a low carbon economy.  With its huge domestic market, vast distances travelled by road, no significant challenge by high-speed rail, and airlines in disarray, high levels of vehicle ownership, traditions like the Summer Driving Season, leadership in technology and innovation, and the will to produce what customers demand … America really could lead the world building more fuel efficient vehicles using alternative energy sources.  Why not try?

The 82-year-old Congressman Dingell may have a past he is proud of, but his support for Detroit’s dinos does not enable what’s best for our future.  According to yesterday’s Detroit News:

In an interview with WJR Radio’s Frank Beckmann Thursday, Dingell called Waxman an “anti-manufacturing left-wing Democrat” who “doesn’t understand and doesn’t care about industrial manufacturing in the United States, especially the auto industry.”

There is no point in any industry manufacturing products consumers don’t want, especially when alternatives are readily available at reasonable prices.  There is every point in innovative manufacturers developing products to meet customer demand and improve on competitors’ offerings.  Having worked for equipment manufacturers, designing equipment and systems for defence and enterprise markets, I shudder at Dingell’s audacity.

In his web welcome message, Chairman Dingell describes the Committee on Energy and Commerce as “the oldest standing committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, and one of its most important committees.  Throughout its history, the Committee … has written landmark legislation greatly benefiting the American people: …”

If his committee is that important and sets its sights on bringing great benefits to the American people, the Committee needs a rethink on its priorities!

Energy policy caught in tussle
 
By Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Washington
Published: November 6 2008 20:47 | Last updated: November 6 2008 20:47

The direction of Barack Obama’s energy and environmental policies as president was caught up on Thursday in a congressional power grab that could have a profound impact on the struggling US car industry.

Henry Waxman, a liberal Democratic congressman from California who strongly advocates action on climate change, is challenging John Dingell of Michigan, the dean of the House, in his role as chairman of its energy and commerce committee.

Mr Dingell’s office said it was ready for the fight,having locked up a “substantial number” of commitments across the Democratic caucus, including members from California.

“We are getting tremendous support,” his spokeswoman said.

“Members understand we need a strong, effective legislator who has the proven ability to address the complex issues facing our nation.”

The 82-year-old congressman, who recently had knee-replacement surgery, has long been the car industry’s most crucial ally on Capitol Hill, leading opposition to higher fuel-economy standards and resisting limits on carbon emissions.

Mr Dingell released a draft plan in October that he said would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent. Mr Waxman has a reputation for taking on chief executives and other corporate officials as chairman of the chief House oversight committee and is seen as an important ally of environmentalists.

Democrats traditionally respect the party’s hierarchy and Mr Waxman faces an uphill battle to unseat Mr Dingell, who has a close relationship with Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader, and key members of the Black Caucus.

Mr Dingell’s relationship with Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker, was strained last year because of her support of the creation of a global warming subcommittee that challenged his jurisdiction.

But some Washington insiders said Ms Pelosi would not have welcomed Mr Waxman’s move.

The Speaker has sought to project an image of a unified Congress fit to tackle national problems.

Mr Waxman’s challenge tells a different story: one of a liberal congressman seeking to usurp power from a moderate Democrat.

The Detroit Free Press, Mr Dingell’s hometown paper, pointed out that it had taken Democrats “less than 12 hours after a sweeping victory on election night to start fighting among themselves for power”.

In a letter to Democrats on Thursday in which he announced he was seeking another term as chairman, Mr Dingell put forward three priorities: healthcare, action on climate change, and food and drug safety.

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