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My townhall meeting with John Dingell

Yesterday I went to a townhall meeting put on by John Dingell (D-MI) at Ann Arbor Pioneer High School. The topic? Global warming.

Dingell asserts that he has a plan to reduce carbon emissions 60% to 80% by 2050. Going into the townhall meeting, I was beyond skeptical. Furious and ready to rumble is more like it, since Dingell was instrumental in blocking an amendment to the latest energy bill that would require increased auto fuel efficiency, and voted against a provision that would require utilities to provide 15% of their energy using sustainable energy sources (that one passed despite him).

Of course, it's hard to question his bona fides on the environment - he was instrumental in getting the first CAFE standards passed, as well as the 1990 Clean Air Act. But he's getting old and cranky, and the messages he has been putting out there haven't instilled me with confidence in him. In fact, exactly the opposite. But I walked away feeling a bit better about the direction he's heading in.


If I heard him right, he's got something cooking. When the House goes back into session on Sept 1st, Dingell is going to introduce a comprehensive bill on climate change, in which he plans to address CAFE standards (though not enough to my liking) and dozens of other issues. He also reminded the audience that this won't be the last climate change bill the Congress considers in the coming years. Here are some of the things he had to say about the bill (bills?) he plans to introduce in his committee. I took notes, but I'll have to admit, I'm paraphrasing some of the things he said:

  • Although politically unpopular, a tax on carbon must be a part of an open and honest debate on how to address global warming.
  • His proposal would impose a stiff tax on carbon, increase the tax on gas (by 50 cents), remove mortgage interest deduction on "mcmansions" - homes over 3000 sq ft, and increase fuel efficiency standards to 35 MPG for cars, 30 MPG for trucks.
  • It would also significantly expand the earned income tax credit, increase funding for the low income home energy assistance program, increase funding for renewable energy R&D, conservation, healthcare and the social security trust fund.
  • This bill will be the most difficult challenge of his career, he said, and no one on the far left or right, in the environmental or business communities, will be completely satisfied with the bill, but "we'll get you a bill the American people can live with."

My favorite bit? Taking away the mortgage interest deduction on homes over 3,000 square feet. That is, well, awesome. Stick it to the bloated baby boomers and their bloated houses.

He also addressed the critics (like me) that have been saying he is cynically introducing legislation that will never pass. He contested that vociferously, saying (paraphrase) "In all my time in Congress, I've never introduced a bill I didn't intend to see passed."

A lot more was discussed and debated, and there were good questions from the audience, and the things people applauded and booed were interesting. More on that in another post.

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