Dingell: A Dingbat Visit to the Auto Show?

According to the Detroit News, Congressman John Dingell plans to introduce ‘meaningful’ global warming legislation, but “Dingell didn’t think the auto industry should be the targeted in that bill, given the recent increase in fuel economy requirements. ”

“We’ve had everybody else get practically a free ride and auto industry has to come up with a 40 percent increase in fuel efficiency,” Dingell said. “We’re going to try to see that the pain is shared equally all around.”

The pain? The pain?

Creating standards that might (might!) enable American automakers to retool to foster competitiveness in the 21st century is pain?

Congressman Dingell has played important roles in achieving many things through the half-century he has been on the Hill. But, he has been late to the table on critical environmental after critical environmental issue.  His fight to protect the auto industry has, due to the industry’s own misguided strategic planning, poorly positioned them for success into the 21st century. And, while he came to the table (eventually) when it came to Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, it was eventually and after quite a battle.  His Detroit auto show comments suggest that his fight to defend Detroit auto executives Neanderthal concepts about what cars they can, and should, put in America’s showrooms.

Dingell’s distressing comments did not stop with expressing a belief that the auto industry has already given at the office, when it comes to Global Warming, and shouldn’t be expected to do anything other than meet very marginal increases in fuel economy.  No, John Dingell spoke up in support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s denial of a California request for an exception to the Clean Air Act to put into place stronger mileage standards than are in the Energy Bill.   While a rather complex issue, it is one that is important and the EPA (actually the EPA Administrator’s, Stephen Johnson, since the civil service staff disagreed) likely violated law in making this ruling. California and 12 other states have put in a lawsuit to appeal, a legal tangle to cost taxpayers money, that likely will continue into the next Administration, delaying meaningful action by yet another year. And, the EPA almost certainly will lose.

U.S. Rep John Dingell said today that proposed tailpipe emissions by California and 16 other states could doom the auto industry.

Doom.  Doom.  Michigan already is suffering seriously from disappearing industrial jobs. Dingell is telling the citizens of his state, watch out, those Californians are out to make even more go away.  Now,

The Environmental Protection Agency rejected a request by California for a waiver under the Clean Air Act to impose a 30 percent cut in tailpipe emission, requiring automakers to average 43.7 mpg for passenger cars by 2016.

 By the way, hard to see where these numbers come from, as the requirement is either 33.6 mpg (EPA figure) or 36 mpg (CA figure) by 2016.  Actually, one of the grounds for Johnson rejecting the California effort was that it did not meet the 35 mpg of the Energy Bill … that is 35 by 2020.

Dingell, D-Dearborn, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said if California got the waiver it could impose conflicting federal and state standards. The California standards could be make automobile production “so expensive that people won’t be able to buy and second of all get so difficult that the companies won’t be able to produce anyhow.”

Hmm …

Dingell said the California system could lead to 50 different standards. He said the EPA decision “makes good sense.”

50 different standards?  This was California and 16 other states, totaling about 45 percent of the US market.  But, as pointed out by HillHeat,

the specter of 50 different standards is simply false. Under the Clean Air Act only California has the authority to get waivers from national standards. Other states can then follow California or the federal standards. At most there can be two different standards.

As Warming Law discussed this,

Dingell might think that EPA’s decision “makes good sense” on a policy level, but the Clean Air Act is pretty straightforward that he and Administrator Johnson don’t get to simply substitute their preferences [for law].

What should we say about Dingell’s comments? Dingbat?

Back to Autos and Global Warming Legislation 

Fred Krupp, President of Environmental Defense, joined Dingell in his touring of the Detroit Auto Show.  According to Krupp,

Dingell “may be the only one that can get a climate change bill.”

Is Krupp suggesting that Global Warming legislation better not touch the auto industry?

Now, Krupp seemed to reject Dingell’s suggestion that the CAFE targets are a stretch.

Krupp said he liked the increase in advanced technology vehicles especially in hybrids in broader vehicle lineups. “The fact that the Big Three makers as well as Toyota and others are making these higher mileage options available in everyday cars is terrific,” Krupp said.

“Terrific” … the glacial pace that it has been occurring? 

Asked about the fact that hybrids still account for just 2 percent of U.S. sales, Krupp noted the growth rate year over year. “I suppose people said initially that very few people were buying Macintosh Apple computers,” Krupp said. “When gasoline prices are $3.50 a gallon, I think you will see growing interest in these options.”

The concern, Macintosh computers have been around for several decades and what is Apple’s share of the marketplace?  Not entirely sure that this is the best model, even though his point is one that I agree with.

And, by the way, $3.50 a gallon gasoline. Odds are, come this summer, you will be nostalgic for $3.50 gasoline just as you’re nostalgic now for $2 (or, Clinton Administration $1) gasoline.

Krupp said there’s “going to be a need for a shared burden” among automakers, oil companies and utilities. They all will have to “belly up to the bar.”

Dingell says that the auto industries have already given at the office. Krupp suggests that there is still a bar tab to be paid, that automakers will have to split with others.  Which one do you think is right?


Late yesterday, Congressman Dingell’s office issued a clarificationof the comments.

The following statement by Rep. John D. Dingell, Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, is meant to clarify comments he made yesterday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.  His  comments have been inaccurately characterized by some reporters who did not hear his remarks:  

“I have stated on numerous occasions over the past year that the problem of global warming requires an economy-wide solution.  For the past 30 years, the automobile industry has been the only industry with a carbon constraint.  The energy legislation we passed last month further tightens the cap on automobiles by 40 percent by 2020.  My position today remains the same as it was yesterday and the same as it was the day before that:  before further reductions are imposed on automotive manufacturers, other industries that have contributed to the problem of global warming will have to make comparable contributions.  I do not intend to “exempt” the auto industry from the cap-and-trade bill I’m working on. It’s important that CAFE be consistent with that program, and that it includes all sectors:  utilities, industrials, fuels, other transportation applications, agriculture, and more.”


2 responses to “Dingell: A Dingbat Visit to the Auto Show?

  1. As a constituent in Dingell’s district, I agree in what you are saying here. Dingell is moving at a glacial pace. He is literally sleeping with the auto industry (his wife is on the board of GM), and it is time for him to step up to the plate. I do agree that he must concentrate on other polluters, such as the energy industry that contributes so much to his campaign funds, but he must also keep the pressure on the auto industry. We only have 8 years left until our emissions need to be decreasing. The jobs our state has lost can be replaced with new GREEN jobs. Dingell can make some many parts of this country better by just doing his job. The rest of the world has given up on our wasteful polluting country, so we have to show them that all hope is not lost and we are apart of the fight against global warming. Come on Dingell!

  2. Pingback: Decision Time on Lieberman « Brew Cityzen

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