congressman dingell leaves a comment on global warming

To his credit, Congressman Dingell, or one of his staffers, just left a comment in response to my last post. In that post, I suggested that the Congressman could be more aggressive in the fight against global warming, and urged his constituents to join me at his Ypsilanti office on April 6 to ask him to do more.

I have the utmost respect for the Congressman as a politician. I think the way he scuttled the idea of a gas tax the other day, for instance, was masterful. (I didn’t agree with it, but I thought that it was brilliant.) I’m glad that we have people with his skill, experience and fierce determination on our side of the aisle. Unfortunately, I think the current situation calls for more than just masterful political cunning. I think that we need to ask him to look beyond the short-term objectives of his most influential backers within the automotive industry, and present the people of America with a long-term vision that we can rally behind. The era of fighting to keep fuel economy standards low, in my opinion, has to end. With all due respect to the Congressman, it isn’t saving jobs, it’s losing them. Just look around. The old Michigan is dying.

Congressman Dingell, you are in a position to help set us on a new path. You have the political capital, the respect, and the ability to do something truly historic (and good for Michigan’s economy) and I’m hopeful that we, your constituents, can help you see that.

Dingell’s proposals are a good first step, but I, and many others in the 15th district, would be happier if they more closely approximated Henry Waxman’s proposed Safe Climate Act, which has been praised by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the League of Conservation Voters, and several other groups that seem to comprehend the serious threat of global warming. The truth of the matter is that we don’t have time for a lot of steps. We need this first one to be significant… The targets of the Safe Climate Act, if you’re unfamiliar with it, are as follows:

“The Safe Climate Act freezes U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2010, at the 2009 levels. Beginning in 2011, it cuts emissions by roughly 2% per year, reaching 1990 emissions levels by 2020. After 2020, it cuts emissions by roughly 5% per year. By 2050, emissions will be 80% lower than in 1990. These goals are comparable to emissions reduction goals adopted by many states and called for by leading American companies, small businesses, religious organizations, environmental advocates, and others.”

Now, in the spirit of fairness, here is the letter from Dingell, in its entirety.

First, let me say that there is nothing for me to reconsider on global warming. Unfortunately, judging by your posting, you do not have an accurate understanding of my thinking on global warming. I believe it is a fact, it is being caused by human activity, and we must do something this year to address it. As Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee I have reported out legislation that will take the first strides in asserting American leadership on this problem. Our bill mandates new efficiency standards for appliances, lighting, buildings, construction, and the electricity grid. Furthermore, it will provide millions of dollars to new research into alternative energy, renewable energy, and new technologies that will help wean us off of burning carbon. This legislation will reduce carbon emissions by 8.6 billion tons; equivalent to the annual emissions of all the cars on the road today in America. For those who say this is not enough, I have two comments. First, you are right – this is the beginning of the process, not the end. Second, these numbers are nothing to shake a stick at and I would note that it is dramatically more than what was done in the previous twelve years of Republican leadership.

When Congress returns from its August recess I will shortly thereafter introduce comprehensive economy-wide cap-and-trade legislation that will cut our output of carbon dioxide by as much as 80% by 2050. I understand your concern about fuel economy, it is a concern of mine as well and I support raising CAFE standards in a responsible way (even if some of my detractors want you to believe otherwise). I support legislation that will raise these standards to 35 mpg by 2022. It might not be the splashiest number, but it was chosen with great care and deliberation for the thousands of our family members, friends, and neighbors who work in an auto industry that must compete against competitors that do not have the same health care or pension costs. I believe it will spur the technological solutions that will truly force changes in the cars and trucks we drive. And it takes us forward while protecting American jobs.

I will also be holding town hall meetings on August 7 and 8 specifically about global warming. This is the first time since the Congress began debating the Iraq War that I am having an open forum exclusively devoted to only one subject. I need and want to hear from you, and you need to hear what I am doing, why I am doing it, and how we can work together to solve what I believe will be the moral issue of the 21st Century.

Here are the details of the town hall meetings:

Tuesday, August 7, 2007
3:30pm
Pioneer High School
Schreiber Auditorium
601 W Stadium Blvd
Ann Arbor, MI 48103

Wednesday, August 8, 2007
5:30pm
University of Michigan – Dearborn
Social Sciences Building
4901 Evergreen Rd
Dearborn, MI 48124
(Park in visitor’s parking structure across from building)

With every good wish,

Sincerely yours,

John D. Dingell
Member of Congress
15th Congressional District, Michigan

The important thing is that all of us in the 15th need to educate ourselves on this issue. We need to step up and accept the responsibility that comes with being in this district. I applaud Dingell for holding these town hall meetings (although I wish the local one was being held at a more accessible time) and I encourage everyone to attend.

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13 Comments

  1. Posted July 27, 2007 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    Why be passionate about global warming? You are spreading poverty and disease. The less energy that is produced, the more people will have less production, less goods, and less health care. And then you pretend you don’t know what the bio-fuels program produces. It called starvation. And we don’t even know if this makes a difference. You’d be better off sponsoring new nuclear power plants, at least that would help some ordinary people, not ideologues.

  2. Posted July 28, 2007 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Howard, it seems you’ve never talked to the likes of Paul Hawkins, Amory Lovins, William McDonough, or Michael Braungart on the subject.

    Higher well-being does not require higher energy use. Quite frequently, higher well-being can be achieved by *lowering* energy use. (Just ask anybody who’s been electrocuted…) If I install better insulation in my house, I use less energy this winter. By using less energy, I save a few hundred bucks, which I can devote to improving my well-being in other ways. Efficiency – achieving our goals* while reducing our energy usage – is a viable alternative to energy use, and hardly leads to “poverty and disease”.

    * It requires a good understanding of what our goals actually are. We don’t buy gasoline for the purpose of fueling our cars, for example, but for the purpose of getting where we’re going. If we live in dense, mixed-use neighborhoods with good transit access and bike/walk access, we can get where we’re going without being forced to get into a car.

    Sure, there are billions of people in the world whose quality of life could be improved by dumping higher energy availability on them. However, these are the same people who are most vulnerable to crop failure, flooding, and other such consequences of irresponsible energy use. The average Bangladeshi isn’t going to be all that better off if he gets to spend the time between now and drowning driving a car.

    (Mark: sorry, I digress.)

  3. egpenet
    Posted July 28, 2007 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Absolutely.

  4. blueprogress
    Posted July 30, 2007 at 12:45 am | Permalink

    Mark, while I completely agree with you that more does need to done to stop global warming, I think the Congressman does raise a few good points. I agree with him on raising CAFE standards in a responsible way – CAFE standards aren’t even a very effective way of getting consumers to change their habits anyway, the Hill-Terry bill has a much better solution on that issue. Washington trying to push regulations is never as good and working to get regular Americans to buy better cars like the tax breaks they’ve done for people buying hybrids in the past, imo. I’ve done some work with drivecongress.com and they’re a good source for the latest facts on this issue – definitely worth a look.

  5. Ted
    Posted July 30, 2007 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    I’m all for tax breaks encouraging people to buy cleaner, smaller, more efficient cars. I don’t think that in and of itself is enough though. We don’t have the time to let market forces bring about change. We need to make up for decades of inaction. The auto companies need to be pushed to innovate, and, as ugly as it might sound, American buyers need to have a few options taken off the table. Average Americans do not need tanks that get 6 miles to the gallon. Most of us would agree on that.

  6. Robert
    Posted July 30, 2007 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    As Americans, we might want to see if we can’t come up with some innovative ways to promote better living WITHOUT limiting options.

  7. Posted July 30, 2007 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    whew guys, get ready. This one’s going to be a doosey.

    Let’s sort some things out on CAFE, higher gas prices, the Hill-Terry Bill, and the Markey-Platts Bill.

    Ready? Go.

    The real solutions to the United States energy crisis are: greater investment in hybrid cars and trucks; greater production of “biofuels” made from domestically-grown agricultural products; better fuel economy standards. These changes, coupled with the proper leadership from our elected officials, will no doubt put our country on the path that environmentalists, religious leaders, and scientists have been urging for all too long.

    Increasing the fuel economy of new cars, SUVs, and other light trucks is vital to curbing global warming. These vehicles consume over 9 million barrels of oil per day and are the source of 20 percent of the nation’s heat trapping pollution that causes global warming. Improving the fuel economy performance of new vehicles is the cleanest, cheapest, and fastest way to tame our growing dependence on oil. Unless Congress takes meaningful steps to cut our oil addiction, the Department of Energy estimates that the U.S. will continue to import approximately 60 percent of its oil for the foreseeable future.

    Big oil holds a lot of influence over our national energy policy, refusing to invest in the research and development of renewable energies, investments that need to happen. As other countries continue to invest in these technologies, the U.S. lags behind, putting American competitiveness and the ability of future generations of Americans to hold their own in the global market.

    The big oil companies are to blame for these astronomical fuel prices. The retiring CEO of ExxonMobil just took a $400 million retirement package, as their profits have been skyrocketing lately. These are the people who need to sacrifice, and their outrageous profits are what need to be slashed, not environmental regulations. We need to investigate how these profits can increase by such large amounts and bring to light just how much they’re profiting from the gouging of everyday people.

    Hill-Terry CAFE Bill

    The technology exists today to make all vehicles – from sedans to SUVs to pickup trucks – dramatically more fuel-efficient. The Senate approved legislation by voice vote that raises fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks to 35 miles per gallon by 2020 – an increase of close to 4 percent per year. President Bush also laid out a goal in this year’s State of the Union to increase fuel economy standards 4 percent per year.

    The Hill-Terry bill is weaker than the President’s plan, the recently passed Senate energy bill, the National Association of Scientists recommendations, and other bipartisan fuel economy bills in the House.

    H.R. 2927 sets a fuel economy target of: just 32 miles per gallon in model year 2022 – a level achieved by the Senate bill nearly 6 years earlier. It caps future standards at no more than 35 miles per gallon in 2022, even if new fuel-saving technology comes on the market. The Hill-Terry Bill also extends and expands a loophole in the CAFE law for flexible fuel vehicles that will significantly erode the oil savings benefits and allow automakers to make less fuel-efficient vehicles than required by the standard.

    Compared to a 4 percent annual increase to 35 mpg in 2018, the weak fuel economy targets in the Hill-Terry legislation would force consumers to spend an additional $26 billion dollars at the gas pump, increase America’s oil dependence by 1.1 million barrels of oil per day, and release an additional 179 million metric tons of heat trapping global warming pollution into the atmosphere, in the year 2020 alone.

    The Hill-Terry legislation would also codify the administration’s anemic fuel economy standard for light trucks, blocking an ongoing state challenge in the courts. It would also interfere with EPA authority under the Clean Air Act to set vehicle pollution standards and the Massachusetts v. EPA decision, inviting future litigation of vehicles standards.

    Now for the…

    Markey-Platts CAFE Bill

    The Markey-Platts CAFE bill amends federal transportation law to:

    – Require an average fuel economy standard of 27.5 miles per gallon for automobiles manufactured by a manufacturer for model year 2012, and an average fuel economy standard of 35 miles per gallon for automobiles manufactured by a manufacturer for model year 201

    – Requires a minimum increase of 4 percent in the average fuel economy from the level for the prior model year for model year 2013 and beyond, with specified exceptions from the 4 percent increase permitted.

    Benefits of H.R. 1506:

    Reduction in oil demand (million barrels per day):
    2015 – .4
    2020 – 1.6
    2025 – 3.1

    Net Consumer Savings with gasoline at $2 per gallon (billions per year):
    2015 – $3
    2020 – $15
    2025 – $31

    Reduction Global Warming Pollution (million metric tons CO2-equiv per year):
    2015 – 76
    2020 – 274
    2025 – 523

    Source: Union of Concerned Scientists. Based on 4 percent annual improvements in new vehicle fuel economy, guaranteed up to 35 mpg in 2018. Further increases subject to review by NHTSA.

    Hope that clears some things up. Check out the Greenpeace website (www.greenpeace.org) and Michigan Hot Seat (www.michiganhotseat.org) or feel free to email me (rebecca.sobel@wdc.greenpeace.org) if you have further questions.

    Thanks for wanting to change the world, folks.

    For the future,
    Rebecca

  8. egpenet
    Posted July 30, 2007 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Strange as it may seem, and unpleasant as it may become, the serious mortgage downturn and the resulting defaults in banking and in the derrivitives market may help cut consumption of cars AND oil. We’ll see for how long. The markets are very jittery right now, despite the DC jawboning going on and the “look on the brighter side of life” on the financial channels.

    Thanks to Rebecca for the real numbers.

  9. Posted July 30, 2007 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    Please elaborate on this:
    “The technology exists today to make all vehicles – from sedans to SUVs to pickup trucks – dramatically more fuel-efficient.”

    How much more does this technology cost us? How well tested is this, what’s the impact of using these technologies? How will these vehicles perform (acceleration, braking, towing, etc.) with these technologies? I almost forgot, but just what are these technologies?

    What will the car and truck of 2020 be like, and how much will it cost?

  10. egpenet
    Posted July 30, 2007 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    Can you say deezill?

    The Japanese and the Europeans have had fuel-efficiency and on top of that have learned to drive less by investing in public transportation and by using their god-given two feet, plus something the Dutch call a bicycle.

    And we have choo-choo trains that COULD help you get to work in the morning and/or buses with pretty pictures outside and big blue letters that say AATA.

    Grrrr … is right!

  11. egpenet
    Posted July 30, 2007 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    Snark … snark.

  12. Posted July 30, 2007 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    couldn’t say it any better myself, eg.

  13. blueprogress
    Posted August 6, 2007 at 1:06 am | Permalink

    Another problem is that Americans actually drive more when they have more fuel efficient cars – so pushing for higher and higher standards really isn’t going to have a positive effect on American consumers. Dingell’s arguments for a carbon (gas) tax make sense but are way too unpopular to ever really work. Like I said before, tax incentives and similar positive changes like Hill-Terry are what we need to make progress here.

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