Power play drives climate policy

Parliamentary maneuvers in Congress can seem like inside baseball to those who don’t follow it every day, but this stuff really matters.

Take the recent example of Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) ousting Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. For years, Dingell has been a roadblock to meaningful climate legislation in the House. Representing Detroit and environs since 1955, Dingell has pushed the interests of the auto industry as bills took shape in his committee.

He claimed to be genuinely seeking a solution to global warming when he released a legislative draft in October. But as my colleague Mark Mondik observes, the Dingell-Boucher legislative proposal would move too slowly to confront the greenhouse gas problem. The bill could also prevent progressive states like California from taking its own actions to reduce emissions.

In contrast, Rep. Waxman has championed environmental issues since he entered Congress in 1974. Two years ago, he introduced the Safe Climate Act of 2006, which would use an economy-wide cap and trade program to freeze emission levels in 2010, reduce them 2% per year through 2020, and then 5% per year through 2050. This type of bill could become the starting point for debate when the new House Energy and Commerce Committee convenes in January.

Keep in mind that the full House (now 256 Democrats and 175 Republicans) only needs a majority vote to pass legislation. The road could be tougher in the Senate where senators from 25 states with significant coal production or use could have a disproportionate influence on the legislative outcome. Senate bills must secure 60 out of 100 votes to avoid a filibuster — the parliamentary tactic that derailed the Lieberman-Warner proposal last June.

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  1. Jerry Ilse - November 26, 2008

    The nut would put thousand people out of work for a theory that not proven.

  2. Paul S. - November 26, 2008

    Which nut are you referring to?
    Investments in the battle to fight climate change have already produced many news jobs, and not taking any away.
    Please explain your logic as it is a common one that I simply do not understand.
    Saving the planet will on the whole create more jobs than will be lost.
    We’re all in this together. Having people like Waxman in a position of power will only reduce the ultimate burden we face.

  3. Chuck Burgess - November 26, 2008

    > “theory that not proven”
    What, you mean “cap-and-trade”? The same cap-and-trade that _worked_ tackling the sulfur dioxide problem? Do a little research on “acid rain” and see a cap-and-trade program that succeeded in practice, not just theory.

  4. SWB - November 26, 2008

    Great! This for a guy who has never had a real job outside of urnning for congress every 2 years. Hopefully he is bringin us the wildly successful California ECOnomic model. Then we can all be vassals of the government!

  5. Helen - November 26, 2008

    Thank goodness we are finally going to have people in office who will start solving the crisis of global warming. We have true reason to be thankful this Thanskgiving.

  6. Alexis - November 26, 2008

    Have you preferred being a vassal of corporate America? They are certainly out for our and the planet’s best interest…

  7. shatto - November 27, 2008

    Well, we will all get the chance to find out, won’t we?
    We will see if those who know better and are smarter and are doing more important things than we, are going to help or not.
    Funny thing is; they will bear no responsibility if they are wrong, but you get to bear the consequences.

  8. Ray - November 28, 2008

    Why do so many people think good things like carbon capping are bad? Bad for business, I know. Solution: Have an algae/bio-diesel farm attached to the coal plant and be carbon neutral. No carbon tax necessary. We can fix it without bickering.

  9. Jay - December 2, 2008

    Thanks to Jerry and SWB for bringing up the obvious problem of how sensible folks are ever going to penetrate the cloud of fear and disinformation that surrounds the issue of climate change. For decades, the fossil fuel interests and ultraconservative nay-sayers have fanned the flames of fear about the cost of climate-preserving laws and the fear of the loss of individual liberties. Saving the ecosystems that we need to survive, and the longer we put it off, the more painful the adjustment will be. If we act now, we can deal with climate change profitably–even though some people will have to change jobs and some businesses will have to change how they operate. The way to maximize individual liberties isn’t to wait until ecological disaster drives us to desperate measures, but to educate everyone to respect their neighbor’s rights. Sensible restrictions are necessary to protect the rights of individuals to be free from health-destroying pollution and not not be robbed of the basic ecosystem services that life requires.

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