Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Need for Immediate & Dramatic Congressional Action on Climate Change: An Open Letter and Appeal to Rep. John Dingell

Dear Rep. Dingell,

As you have stated, “The Congress should, must and will regulate CO2. I will continue to create a bill that does not place unfair burdens on one single group, industry or community . . . . Bringing everyone to the table is the best way to secure our future, preserve economic opportunity and protect our natural environment.”

But because the increasingly dramatic pace of global climate change demands immediate action on as many fronts as possible, I hope you will not continue to stand in the way of greatly increased CAFE standards for autos produced in the US. The US car industry is in desperate need of leadership that will help it to break its addiction to fuel-guzzling cars, which are a major contributor to US CO2 emissions. It is long past the time that anyone who says they are concerned about the future of the US car industry, Auto workers, and climate change, can continue to oppose greatly increased fuel economy standards for US cars.

Unfortunately, in your June 27 podcast statement concerning your views on legislative action to combat global warming, you suggested that increasing fuel economy standards is not a useful approach.

I appreciate the ambitions voiced in your recent podcast of June 27 concerning your Committee's plans to fight climate change. I seriously question, however, how serious or responsible you can be about pulling together an honest and workable plan to combat climate change when on the one hand you say that--

"We should set ambitious goals and targets for that legislation," and "We need to put everything into the discussion, whether it is politically salable or not," and then immediately proceed to try to silence or put off the table any discussion of one of the most important ways of reducing greehouse gas emissions by saying that "We will need to get beyond the stale debate over miles per gallon. We should be talking about the lifetime carbon footprint of vehicles, about the carbon content of fuels, about the promotion of renewable fuels and advanced batteries and other technologies."

This sounds like outright obfuscation and pandering to the car industry, and will not earn much trust for your legislative responsibility from anyone truly concerned about addressing climate change in this decade rather than 20 or 30 years from now.

You simply cannot talk about the "lifetime carbon footprint" of vehicles without talking about their fuel efficiency! This is merely obfuscatory language, which seems calculated to continue to avoid responsible discussion about what must be done NOW to address climate change, which is an urgent crisis NOW for this generation and the next ones--and one of the most effective and direct ways of addressing it is to greatly reduce carbon emissions from automobiles and power plants within THIS decade, which is the decision decade. We have less than ten years to do what must be done, since carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for 100 years.

Rep. Dingell, you may say all you want about your ambitions for the Committee, but until you buckle down and grapple directly with fuel economy standards, and offer real regulatory teeth nationally in line with what Gov. Schwarzenegger is trying to do in California, you are merely talking around the issue of climate change, rather than addressing it effectively and responsibly. If you want to become part of the solution rather than part of the problem, you must turn to the "stale debate" over fuel efficiency and make it fresh.

So I hope you will move beyond obfuscatory rhetoric to responsible action in the months ahead by addressing all the issues you mention IN ADDITION to addressing the need for much greater fuel efficiency standards from the car industry. We will get from the car industry only what we demand, since without demand, they will continue to use the excuse that American car buyers "prefer" gas-guzzling fuel wasting vehicles, as a reason to avoid THEIR responsibilty for changing the kinds of cars they manufacture.

As Toyota and Honda have already demonstrated, the technology is there, so if the US auto companies want to survive and recover their market share, they better wake up to the fact that the reason they're losing is that they have simply not kept up with true demand, which is increasingly about fuel efficiency and green cars. Will you help the US car industry to make this transition by being a true friend, or will you continue to be a false friend to the car industry by feeding their wasteful habit? That is the question you and your colleagues on the Energy Committee face, and I hope you will respond to it responsibly, both for the sake of the US car industry and its workers, and for the sake of the global climate.

Governor Charlie Crist of Florida has already announced his intention to adopt California's clean car standards. Thus far, eleven additional states (CT, MA, MD, ME, NJ, NY, OR, PA, RI, VT, and WA) have adopted the tailpipe standards, and three more (AZ, FL, NM) are coming on board. States and local initiatives continue to lead the way to conserve energy and curb global warming, and now the only question is whether a Democratic House will be responsible to those who elected it last year, and act NOW to change the way the US has been standing in the way of the needed dramatic action and policy change on issues related to global warming!

Just last month, the Senate voted to increase fuel economy (CAFE) standards to 35 mpg by 2020 saving millions of barrels of oil. Will the US HOUSE now do the same or (preferably) better, or will you and the Energy/Commerce Committee defy the demands of the US Public for responsible action Now?!!


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