Dingell Hurts the Democratic Party

Once again, Michigan congressman John Dingell has decided to side with Detroit automakers who continue to resist entering the 21st century. The House has scrapped legislation that would raise fuel efficiency standards…to those less than Europe and Japan:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, decided not to allow a vote on an amendment requiring cars and light trucks sold in the United States to achieve a fleet average of 35 miles per gallon by 2019. The measure, similar to one the Senate passed in June, drew fierce opposition from automakers and dealers, the United Automobile Workers and, crucially, Representative John D. Dingell, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Energy Committee.
A second and much weaker fuel efficiency measure for cars and trucks that was endorsed by the auto industry and Mr. Dingell also will not come to a vote, officials said….
Ms. Pelosi made the tactical decision to prevent a vote on the mileage provision, popularly known as CAFE, for corporate average fuel economy, to avoid a nasty fight among fellow Democrats, who are deeply divided over how far to push struggling Detroit automakers to improve the efficiency of their vehicles.

While this isn’t the end of the legislation, as it can be reintroduced in the conference committee, it makes it much harder to get it passed. Someone explain to me why we can’t compete on a playing field that is still tilted towards the U.S. auto corporations.

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11 Responses to Dingell Hurts the Democratic Party

  1. Wyatt says:

    “Someone explain to me why we can’t compete on a playing field that is still tilted towards the U.S. auto corporations”
    I must vigoroursly disagree that the playing field is tilted towards the U.S. auto corporations. Foreign auto companies are at a great advantage with regard to labor costs. The Detroit automakers must pay not only higher wages to U.S. workers than workers overseas, but also pay for the health insurance of the U.S. workers. In most other industrialized countries, the government pays for health care, not the employer. Detroit’s automakers also have the burden of paying for retiree health care, as well.
    Even for those foreign companies with U.S. assembly plants, those plants are not unionized, and many of the parts that are used in the final product are manufactured in low-wage countries.
    I am all for raising the CAFE standard, but only when the playing field is levelled — that is, when taxes and tariffs on imports are raised to offset the great cost advantage that foreign auto companies have in the market.

  2. Matt says:

    What does the tilted playing field or not have to do with achieving fuel efficiency. Essentially the US auto makers are fessing up that they aren’t as bright as foriegn auto makers (or to be fair what they are fessing up to is that they don’t think the American consumer will buy a fuel efficient car)

  3. The profit margin on trucks is much higher than on passengers cars, and folks just gotta have their trucks for toolin’ around town. No real work to be done with the trucks, mind you. Trucks are cool, and big, and with the pure chrome spinners, they are properly ostentatious.
    And that’s why they don’t want the CAFE limits raised. The more trucks they sell, the more they would need to compensate on their cars. Interesting that the hybrid truck engines are designed to boost power, rather than boost efficiency. Cause it makes more boost to make the trucks loud for running through my neighborhood at 3 in the morning.
    In St. Paul Ford has been building a relatively fuel efficient pickup, the Ranger but sales have been dropping and so the factory is set to close next year (even though it is one of the top in their company for efficiency for productivity.) They decided that they didn’t want to re-tool it for the Hybrid Escape, which has a higher demand than supply.
    I don’t get how they make their decisions. They don’t seem to have gotten any smarter since the 1970’s when they kept on designing big boats in response to the oil crisis. And as consumers, we share the blame. If we demanded they make more fuel-efficient cars, they would make them. But we likes our trucks and crossovers.

  4. bigTom says:

    I have less blame for the manufacturers, and their wholly-owned politicians, than I do for the piggish American consumer. Given the choice between a 50mpg Prius, a 15mpgSUV, and a 25mpg overpowered sedan, most car buyers are choosing between the later two. I think the attitude is “this may be the last time I can have a gas-hog, I better get while there is still getting”. The auto companies of course are careful to cater to this sentiment, as those are the high margin products. (And of course they add much fuel to the piggish attitude with advertising). Until we get the people to not be fooled by the “my auto can outaccelerate yours”, as a substitute for “my weenie is bigger than yours”, we aren’t likely to make progress on this front.
    Oh well, the international energy agency thinks the oil price crisis will hit by no later than 2009 -we are so unprepared!

  5. natural cynic says:

    One bit of good news is that some political analysts are counting on the Senate bill, which has the higher CAFE standards, to prevail in conference. There will be more politicians on Dingell’s case there, so the old stick-in-the-mud might break.

  6. Trinifar says:

    Until American voters are willing to provide air cover for politicians we are going to be living with Dingell and his like. But too many Americans are addicted to their gas hogs so I don’t see that changing until we see gas prices really skyrocket. The our auto companies will be looking around and crying “buy American!” without having the capacity to produce a good high mileage American product. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if tax dollars are used to bail them out at that point.

  7. Don’t forget that Saturn is a domestic make, Trinifar. Even though it is owned by GM, Saturn makes decent cars with good mileage, strong safety features built in and they look pretty good, as well.

  8. SLC says:

    But gee Mr. Mike, Charles Krauthammer says that CAFE standards are no good.

  9. Jim says:

    With the trend towards automobiles that use alternatives to gasoline, hopefully an anachronism in 25 or 30 years, why bother trying to set future gasoline consumption rates? Also, don’t forget the collusion factor between Detroit and Big Oil. They have their say in the matter as well.

  10. Seriously?
    an amendment requiring cars and light trucks sold in the United States to achieve a fleet average of 35 miles per gallon by 2019.
    THAT’S IT!?
    What happened to the ‘American ingenuity’? That we can make anything better, faster, more efficiently? Utter bull that such a weak bill is even being considered! By 2019!? Oh, for horror! Auto companies might actually have to be innovative!
    I live in Dingell’s district, and I’ll be calling him about this very soon. Coddling the auto companies that have screwed Michigan over is not going to help this state’s economy at all.

  11. garhane says:

    You Americans seem to live in a world of self protective lies. as though the USA was one gigantic city above the clouds immune to the laws of reality. The only known way to reduce the CO2 and other bad stuff coming out of the tailpipe, other than destroying the cars, building mass transit and other rational methods, is to raise fuel efficiency. It was easy enough to do when OPEC cut off the oil in the 70s, and then it was doubled by 1985. It has not been raised since and in fact it has been going DOWN for 15 years, due to the increasing number and % of light trucks (SUVs) sold. So when all science other that outright liars and absolute idiots admit you have a crisis you are going deeper into the do do. You do not seem to have a leader worth a damm except that lady Pelosi and she too now seems hamstrung by her own party, so recently in receipt of a massive vote to get the plug out. “Shine vanishing Republic”.

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