Dingell-Waxman battle important for Michigan, nation

Has John Dingell been wrong to protect the Big Three from tougher environmenal standards?

Yep.

Does that mean he should be pushed out of his chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee?

Nope.

Dingell, the 82-year-old Democrat who has been a member of Congress since 1955, has an impressive record as a protector of the environment and as a protector of the auto industry. Unfortunately, those two goals have been in conflict at times, and Dingell generally has sided with Detroit over issues like clean air and global warming.

On the other hand, Henry Waxman, the 69-year-old California Democrat who is challenging Dingell for chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce committee, is a long-time environmentalist with no auto industry in his back yard. He’s been free to push for tougher energy and environmental standards.

Now, with Barack Obama planning wide-ranging energy reforms – including some that the auto industry won’t like – it’s easy to see why the party leadership is considering dumping Dingell.

But it would be a mistake. Although many in the nation don’t want to admit it, the auto industry is too important to the nation’s economy to let it fail. And no one knows better than John Dingell the mix of energy reforms that are best for the nation – and that won’t push the auto industry over the edge.

At the same time, Detroit automakers would benefit from some tough love. They would be more competitive today if Congress had held them to higher mileage standards a decade ago.

Dingell will need to compromise – but that’s something he’s good at. Tougher environmental standards are necessary if we’re going to reverse global warming – not to mention continuing to clean up the air and water.

Rep. Dingell knows that, and will lead the Energy and Commerce Committee in that direction – if he survives the challenge from Waxman.

If Waxman takes over and runs roughshod over Detroit, the environment may benefit. But the nation would be worse off.

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