The Dingell-Waxman fight and climate change

At the same time President-Elect Barack Obama is supporting a bailout of the auto industry, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-MI), who has championed the auto industry while pushing an environmental agenda, is facing an internecine fight to retain that position. Rep. Henry Waxman (CA), most likely aided and abetted by the uber-liberal House leadership, is trying to wrest control of the influential committee from the senior member.

Waxman is not just working behind the scenes, but has his statement on the Dingell challenge at the top of his web site. Waxman notes that energy, climate change, and health care are under the committee’s jurisdiction, and he’s the best one to handle getting the Democratic agenda through Congress on those issues.

It could be that Waxman’s action to unseat Dingell is part of the in-coming president’s strategy to get a major climate change bill through Congress. President-elect Obama has a huge energy and climate change agenda that is now being marketed as part of a “stimulus” and “job creation” program. Expect lots of ethanol-type boondoggles for alternative energy as well as massive restrictions on energy use. Tighter CAFE standards are one target. Look too at “windfall profits” taxes on the oil industry — one of the few bright lights in these economic doldrums — that, combined with falling oil prices, could put a halt to oil exploration. President Jimmy Carter tried those, and according to the Congressional Research Service, “The 1980s windfall profits tax depressed the domestic production and extraction industry and furthered our dependence on foreign sources of oil.”

Maybe a 2009 “Job Loss and Greater Energy Dependence” bill is what Waxman wants to bully through. Could be that Dingell recognizes the trade-offs involved. If Waxman takes out Dingell, considered more moderate and bipartisan, then the climate for more rational climate change legislation will be bleak indeed.