Sunday, August 12, 2007

What’s the Deal with Dingell?

A debate among environmentalists is raging over whether the proposals by Michigan Democrat John Dingell, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, represent a sincere effort to fight global warming or a sneaky way to prevent meaningful legislation on raising CAFE standards for cars. On Gristmill blog, David Roberts is defending Dingell while Joseph Romm accuses Dingell of using the “poison pill” strategy to undermine legislative efforts to raise CAFE standards.

Trying to decipher Dingell’s motives becomes even more complicated when you realize that only last December when asked whether a scientific consensus on global warming has been established Dingell replied:

"This country, this world, the [human] race of which you and I are a part, is great at having consensuses that are in great error. And so I want to get the scientific facts, and find out what the situation is, and find out what is the cure, and find out what is the cure that is acceptable to the country that I represent and serve."

So here is someone who only recently was wondering whether humans are to blame for global warming and now has proposed the following strong measures as listed by David Roberts:

A carbon tax of up to $100 per ton.

A gas tax of $0.50 a gallon.

A cap-and-trade system.

Ending the mortgage tax deduction for "McMansions" over 3,000 sq. feet.

All with the goal of reducing GHG emissions 60-80% by 2050.

Clearly there would be great political opposition in the United States to at least three of these proposals, the carbon tax, gas tax, and end of the mortgage deduction for many people. And coming from someone who only about eight months ago appeared to have been in the global warming skeptics camp has to raise doubts over the sincerity of these proposals. However, after holding hearings on global warming and energy maybe Dingell has had an epiphany and has decided that he is the one to put forth truly strong legislation, sort of like Richard Nixon, who made his reputation by being an anticommunist deciding that he would be the one to open the door to communist China.

Even if Dingell’s motives can not be unequivocally determined, his proposals seem to provide hope that the debate in the US Congress has at last shifted from whether human sources are the cause of global warming to what to do about it.

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