What Dingell thinks about climate and CAFE

We may not be all thrilled that he is a central player in the energy debate, but he is, so his views are worth knowing. He just gave a blunt interview on the subject of climate and energy legislation broadcast on C-Span and available here (you may need to step through some pages to find it — weirdly, C-Span does not seem to have heard of the permalink concept).

Dingell’s sly strategy was reported by E&E Daily in a story titled, “Dingell thumps House climate panel, reveals carbon tax strategy” (subs. req’d):

Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) intends to propose major taxes on gasoline and industrial carbon dioxide emissions in an attempt to show Americans would reject paying high costs to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Ouch! The whole story is reprinted below:

In an interview with C-Span that aired yesterday, the powerful chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee revealed his legislative plans while strongly criticizing the special global warming committee created by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) earlier this year.


Dingell’s plan to float major new taxes — which would probably be dead on arrival — and his attack on the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming underscore the difficulties facing Democrats as they attempt to craft climate legislation.

Dingell said he believes there is consensus among Americans on global warming, but he rejected the notion that the public would accept major new costs. “I sincerely doubt that the American people are willing to pay what this is really going to cost them,” he said.

As such, Dingell intends to float proposals that amount to a pair of stalking horses on the matter. “I will be introducing, in the next little bit, a carbon tax bill just to sort of see how people really feel about this,” he said in the interview, adding it would be a 50 cent gasoline tax and a “very substantial” tax on carbon emissions.

The current federal gasoline tax is 18.4 cents per gallon.

“When you see the criticism I get, you will understand that you will be getting the answer to your question,” he said in response to a question about Americans’ willingness to pay higher prices.


The House plans to take up broad energy legislation this month that includes electricity conservation provisions, renewable energy tax incentives, measures to expand renewable fuels infrastructure and a host of other plans that several committees have approved.

But the measure does not include a cap-and-trade system or other mandatory controls on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, automobiles and other sources. Instead, Dingell plans to steer climate legislation through his committee this fall. He said the measure would have bipartisan support and reiterated his pledge to craft legislation to address global warming without causing major economic harm.

“I am going to try and see to it that everybody puts their pence in the collection box, and I going to try and see that nobody is destituted or bankrupt,” he said.

Dingell also said that the presidential election could affect climate legislation efforts.

“Presidential elections are notorious for their adverse impact on good government in this country,” he said. “I have got to move this just as fast as I can to try and get ahead of the election, which for all intents and purposes is going to go into high gear I would suspect within the next couple of months.”Climate committee ‘an embarrassment’

Dingell also renewed his criticism of the warming panel headed by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). Dingell resisted the panel’s formation earlier this year, and the panel was ultimately structured without legislative authority as a temporary entity. The lawmaker earlier this year said he believed the committee would be as useful as “feathers on a fish.”


“I have seen nothing that they have done that I frankly would want to take credit for,” he said. “If I was on that committee I would have long since asked for the privilege of being removed from it, because quite frankly I think it is an embarrassment to everybody.

“They have done nothing,” he added. “They have no legislative jurisdiction or authority. They are simply just running around making speeches and thumping the tub and acting important.”

He said he was not criticizing Markey, noting he is a friend and that he has great respect for him. “I have simply described the functions of the committee that he has the misfortune to preside over,” Dingell said.Backing Terry-Hill CAFE plan

Dingell also criticized Senate-passed legislation that would increase corporate average fuel economy standards to 35 miles per gallon for cars and light trucks in 2020. An ally of Detroit automakers, Dingell said the Senate plan was drafted with “no particular attention to detail” and contains defects that would harm some automakers.

Still, Dingell also committed to supporting legislation to substantially increase fuel efficiency.

“I think I can support an increase that would reach the levels of the Senate bill,” he said, adding that he has told the industry expect a significant increase. “My job is to see that it is done without a loss of jobs, without a loss of industry, without a loss of opportunity for the people of this country,” he said.

Dingell voiced support for a recent proposal by Reps. Baron Hill (D-Ind.) and Lee Terry (R-Neb.) that would increase CAFE standards to at least 32 miles per gallon for passenger cars and light trucks by 2022. “I can support this, I have no problems,” he said.

Their legislation would keep separate standards for passenger cars and light trucks but require that the average standard for the overall fleet of vehicles sold in the United States would be no less than 32 mpg and no greater than 35 mpg by 2022.

Pelosi said recently she supports the Senate CAFE legislation. Markey has drafted a bill with the same standard but with an accelerated timeline. There may be an effort to add such CAFE measures when the full House takes up energy legislation in coming weeks.

However, Dingell instead wants auto efficiency addressed as part of the broader global warming measure that he plans to steer through his committee later, and not as part of the energy bills that the House plans to address in the near-term.