Dingell is dispensable

Even though conventional wisdom says you need him to pass major environmental legislation

Whether House Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell is a potential friend or an implacable foe is not only the subject of intense debate here at Gristmill, but a key strategic question for the environmental movement and the Democratic Party. I recently wrote an article for The American Prospect about how Dingell's fellow congressional Democrats are abandoning him as he tries to obstruct meaningful energy and climate legislation -- and implied that his diminished power means Democrats and environmentalists can go around him without worrying about fallout from not having him at the table. I want to use this opportunity to provide a little more information about how I reached that conclusion, in a way not possible within the length constraints of the original American Prospect article. First, I was struck, and a little surprised, by the almost unanimous unwillingness of Democrats to say anything meaningful in support of Dingell. While all stopped short of explicit on-the-record attacks, they generally responded to my questions about their support for Dingell with harsh criticisms of his policies, largely untempered by the personal praise members usually bestow on even their roughest opponents.

Protect our sharks, protect our oceans

Sharks vs. humans

Humans kill something like 100 million sharks annually. More humans are killed annually by dogs and by falling coconuts than are killed by sharks. At such levels, humanity will certainly survive its encounter with dogs and coconuts. The same cannot be confidently said of sharks and people. The U.S. Shark Finning Prohibition Act is, unfortunately, another law whose name is misleading. The law carries a loophole that makes enforcement difficult. Sharks are allowed to be landed after their fins have been cut off. It's time to shut down that loophole and require that fishing companies prove that they are only killing the legal number and types of sharks for their fins by landing the creatures fully intact. Sharks help to maintain an essential balance beneath the water's surface. Removing them from the ocean creates booms in prey species further down the food chain, which, in turn, can create terribly destructive cascading effects on countless ocean creatures.

Uniting friends, dividing enemies

Good ideas, those

Of the many stupid things this country’s leadership has done since 9/11, perhaps none was so stupid as violating a basic principle of conflict that dates back to Sun Tzu: Unite your friends and divide your enemies. Instead, they have needlessly fractured our alliances and spent a great deal of time lumping every scary brown person into one undifferentiated mass of "Islamonaziextremofascism" (or whatever comic book term is in vogue in the fever swamps these days). Consequently, we have lost power and Al Queda has gained it. Nothing was better for Bin Laden than being cast as the leader of …

McHenry thinks bikes, unlike sexual harassment, voter fraud, and war with Iran, are worth condemning

Congress’ dimmest bulb laughs at bikes

The energy bill just passed by the House contains a provision that would offer a $20 monthly tax rebate to bicycle commuters. When Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) found out, he took to the floor of the House to deliver this speech (via Streetsblog): A major component of the Democrats’ energy legislation and the Democrats’ answer to our energy crisis is, hold on, wait one minute, wait one minute, it is promoting the use of the bicycle. Oh, I cannot make this stuff up. Yes, the American people have heard this. Their answer to our fuel crisis, the crisis at the …

Can enviros learn to tell stories?

Learning from masters in other fields: What a concept!

David Mamet (author of The Verdict and Glengarry Glen Ross, among other fine things) writes this in his new book Bambi vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business (a great book just loaded with great snark:

An interview with Hillary Clinton about her presidential platform on energy and the environment

This is part of a series of interviews with presidential candidates produced jointly by Grist and Outside. Update: Clinton suspended her campaign for the presidency on June 7, 2008. Hillary Clinton. Photo: SEIU True to form, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton has done her homework on environmental and energy issues. A member of the Environment and Public Works Committee during her six and a half years in the Senate, she has sponsored or cosponsored nearly 400 legislative proposals related to energy and the environment. They’ve hit on high-profile topics like energy independence as well as less-discussed green issues like toxic …

A look at Hillary Clinton’s environmental platform and record

Update: Clinton suspended her campaign for the presidency on June 7, 2008. Hillary Clinton. Photo: Roger H. Goun During her years representing New York state in the U.S. Senate (2001 to the present), Hillary Clinton has earned an 87 percent lifetime voting score from the League of Conservation Voters (lower than it might have been because she’s missed some votes while campaigning for president). She has tended to run with the Democratic pack on environmental policy, but in November 2007 she unveiled a comprehensive and ambitious climate and energy plan. Read an interview with Hillary Clinton by Grist and Outside. …

Dingell's dimwitted detractors

Activists pester him about the most trivial stuff

OK, I’m back to defending Dingell (sorry Brian!), mainly because the activists attacking him are acting like idiots. At a town hall in Ann Arbor, Mich., Dingell unveiled the various climate-change proposals he’s going to introduce to Congress on Sep. 1. Press coverage of the event is fairly sketchy, and I can’t find a transcript anywhere, so there’s not a lot of detail, but the measures include: A carbon tax of up to $100 per ton. A gas tax of $0.50 a gallon. A cap-and-trade system. Ending the mortgage tax deduction for "McMansions" over 3,000 sq. feet. All with the …

Damn Environment, It’s Always Getting in the Way

Partisan eco-impasse stalls budget vote in California California’s massive state budget is nearly six weeks overdue, and a partisan eco-impasse is a major factor. The state Assembly passed a spending plan in late July, but it’s stalled out in the state Senate. The current sticking point: the 37-year-old California Environmental Quality Act, under which the state can sue cities, counties, and developers that don’t fully consider the eco-impacts of new development projects — impacts that, these days, include climate change. Republicans are seeking a ban on such suits for three years, saying voter-approved funding should go “into levees and not …

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