dingell’s ties to general motors

Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, has an article up at the Huffington Post entitled, “A Good Week for GM?” Here’s a clip:

It certainly looks like it. The settlement of the short-lived strike by the United Auto Workers is seen as having resolved the threat that retiree health care costs posted to General Motors’ competitiveness, and the company’s stock price soared on the news. Meanwhile, Congressman John Dingell, whose wife Debbie is a GM lobbyist, has embraced GM’s long-standing policy preference in dealing with global warming and America’s oil dependence; that is, to tax fuel.

Dingell has embraced — officially, at least — the idea of a $50 per ton tax on carbon, roughly $15 per ton of carbon dioxide, phased in over five years, and pegged thereafter at the rate of inflation. GM prefers a carbon tax, which puts the burden of emissions cuts on the oil industry (and GM’s customers), over tougher federal fuel economy standards for cars, trucks and SUVs. Recently, the company also embraced a cap-and-trade system that would also price carbon, thereby joining USCAP, an alliance of environmental and business groups working for such legislation…

Dingell also announced that, in addition to his proposed carbon tax, he was considering a cap-and-trade program. In doing so, Dingell, the auto industry’s strongest congressional supporter, joined former Vice President Al Gore in advocating a combined carbon tax and carbon cap.

But just as GM officially advocated a gas tax for years without really doing anything about it, there remain questions about Dingell’s sincerity. Back in July, when Dingell first talked about the possibility of a carbon tax, he made it clear that his motivation was in part to illustrate how little public support there was for effective action on climate: “I sincerely doubt that the American people are willing to pay what this is really going to cost them.” He added that he would introduce legislation, “just to sort of see how people really feel about this.”

In fact, as Dingell is no doubt well aware, there is ample research showing that a carbon tax is the LEAST politically palatable mechanism for dealing with global warming. So it’s hard to avoid two observations: First, Dingell has seemingly designed his strategy to fail, and admits as much — which is not something a legislative craftsman as skilled as he would normally do. And, two, he has done so at a time when Congress is debating the most popular mechanism for reducing oil consumption — tougher fuel economy standards — which Dingell and GM loathe. In other words, it would seem that Dingell’s intention with this maneuver is not to pass a carbon tax, but simply to keep fuel-economy improvements out of a pending Congressional energy bill. If this is true, what seems like a good week for GM will in fact be just another missed opportunity…

The heat is definitely going to build on Dingell in the coming months. As reporters begin digging, I suspect we’re going to see more and more about his economic ties to the auto industry and his wife’s position at GM. My hope is that he doesn’t let it get that far. It seems to me that by moving to support the modest increases in fuel economy that we’ve been talking about, that can be avoided, and he can preserve his legacy as a great leader for Michigan and an environmentalist. The alternative, I’m afraid, is an ugly public fight which calls into question his motivations, and sullies his legacy. I for one don’t want to see that happen.

When we began our petition drive, we very consciously made the decision to stay positive. Our goal was not to have Dingell step asside, but to encourage him to be the kind of leader that we want and need. My sense is that most reasonable people are like us. They aren’t hoping to see Dingell end his illustrious career being called a liar in the press, with other members of the House legislating around him. Michigan should be leading the charge — not fighting it. And, as I’ve said before, Dingell shouldn’t be expending his considerable strength fighting the inevitable. He should instead be demanding federal dollars for R&D and job training. Instead of working fiercely to stop this from happening, he should be focusing on getting federal dollars into Michigan to help the Big 3 make the transition. This doesn’t have to be bad thing for Michigan. Facing reality can, in fact, present opportunities. Hopefully, for the sake of Michigan and himself, he’ll recognize this before it’s too late.

update: Debbie Dingell, the Congressman’s wife, just left a rebuttal to the Carl Pope piece at the Huffington Post.]

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  1. egpenet
    Posted September 30, 2007 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    None of us to my knowledge, John Dingell nor myself, nor anyone else I can think of … put one and one together to equal global warming.

    There was this bird, and that owl, and this critter and that forest, and this shoreline and that park, and a tip of his hat to CAFE, and etc. What was going on all that time was a total pollution of our environment … but Dingell and everyone else went one Love Canal at a time.

    The poop has hit the fan. No more time to “dither” Dingell. No more baby steps to make the claim for legislative “progress.” GW’s recent speech was a waste of time. Mrs. Dingell’s “rebuttal” was anything BUT. She says nothing, but recites the old mantra of looking at all he has done. Not enough. No where NEAR enough.

    Thanks to Bush, we have walled ourselvees off from the world … tourism to the US is down dramatically, the dollar is in the toilet and we are on the verge of a recession. And the only responses we get from politicisns in Ypsilanti, Lansing and now DC is to raise taxes and punish us all! Shame on all of you … pity on us, our Ypsilanti neighbors and the world.

  2. Sidney
    Posted October 1, 2007 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    How much stock do he and his wife hold in General Motors? Does anyone know?

  3. Roger Smith
    Posted October 1, 2007 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    They own a little over $1M worth of GM stock.

  4. Robert
    Posted October 6, 2007 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    I did some research and found some shocking information. It turns out that tens of thousands of voters living in the 15th congressional district have ‘ties’ to GM. There’s obviously a conflict of interest here. These people don’t have the planet’s best interest at heart. We need to revoke their voting privileges or just throw them out of the district…that is the ones that haven’t already lost their jobs and had their houses put into foreclosure.

    I don’t mean to suggest that Dingell’s ties to GM shouldn’t be known publicly, or judged critically. I just wanted to use humor to make sure that attitudes don’t drift too far from realities here. Of course, I do realize I’m way to late for that, and my humor is lame.

  5. mark
    Posted October 7, 2007 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    As usual, you’re right, Robert. We shouldn’t care about such things. it shouldn’t matter one bit that Cheney has a huge interest in Haliburton and that Dingell owns a sizeable piece of GM. I feel dumb for even bringing it up… I know what we should do! Let’s pass a law that makes it illegal to discuss the finances of our leaders.

  6. Robert
    Posted October 8, 2007 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    It feels weird and tingly to be at the receiving end of those kinds of comments.

    Didn’t you read my disclaimer? I wrote it mostly for you, Mark. I don’t really think people shouldn’t care about those kinds of ties, and I am glad you brought it up. I think it should be talked about, and those ties should be re-examined whenever Dingell makes a decision on related issues. I just saw an opportunity to try to make a joke. I do think people should keep everything in context, and that was really the very narrow point of my comment.

  7. Robert
    Posted October 8, 2007 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    Mark, you’re going to be kissing my ass in a few days, when September’s web traffic numbers are released, and you see that my asinine comments and behavior have helped to triple your readership. By December, Pepsi and Coke are going to be in a bidding war for banner space on your site.

  8. mark
    Posted October 8, 2007 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think Coke or Pepsi would be willing to pay what my soul is worth.

  9. Robert
    Posted October 23, 2007 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    I destroyed your traffic in September. You’d be lucky to have Red Bull wanting banner space now. Sorry :( my bad.

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