Detroit, its auto industry and its UAW find themselves facing a whole new era. A Congress that may NOT come across with dollars to keep the Detroit Dinosaurs (that's a management team not an NBA team) playing. And today a new powerful figure in charge of the House Energy Committee. This is not somebody who'll effort to block any tougher fuel efficiency standards or stand with oil and steel companies against mandated new technologies for energy. So now the Big Three Automakers are not only beggars, they are no longer choosers of legislation that will or won't make it to the floor of the House of Represenatives.
Is this really a change that matters? Here's what the Detroit newspaper got out of a defeated supporter of Dingell, a bad sign for the hometown industry: "U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, a Menominee Democrat and one of Dingell’s closest lieutenants on the committee, was asked what message the vote by the Democratic caucus to replace Dingell sent to the automotive industry. 'Not a good one,' he said."
THE WAXMAN COMETH
So what does the rise to power of Henry Waxman mean for greentech and the auto industry? Here's Waxman's own account of why he won the vote against veteran committee head, Dingell from Detroit: "The argument we made was that we needed a change for the committee to have the leadership that will work with this administration and members in both the House and the Senate in order to get important issues passed in health care, environmental protection, in energy policy."
Here's how one national newspaper leads their story on the Waxman's win: "To the delight of many environmental groups across the country, California Democrat Henry Waxman has ousted fellow Democrat John Dingell of Michigan from his post as chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The 255-member House Democratic conference voted 137 to 122 Thursday to replace Rep. Dingell, a close ally of the auto industry, with Waxman, a longtime champion of environmental causes."
Seems it isn't just the publicly-traded stock of GM and Ford that is in the dumper, it's the auto industry's political stock as well.
Here's the NRDC, a prominent environmental voice in the lobbying industry, had to say about the Waxman win: "Chairman Waxman has been a leader on global warming for many years, and we look forward to working closely with him in this new role. Our nation faces many challenges, including the climate crisis, and Congressman Waxman understands that we can’t delay in taking on these issues." The NRDC went on to politely praise Dingell, as well.
On Waxman's official website there's a section with suggestions of what families or individuals can do to help the environment. Not only is it clear Waxman believes global warming to be science, and not a leap of faith. He actually thinks humans should do something about it. It may not be exactly a sea change, but as one conservationist said, "a breath of clean air."
Here'some of the text on Waxman's environmental hints wegpage: "From energy efficient lighting, to solar panels, to recycling, there are dozens of simple steps we can all take to protect the environment. If we each do our part, we can help clean our air, protect our water supply, lessen our dependence on oil, reduce global warming, and safeguard the natural world."
Of course, even Waxman and a new president together cannot double-handedly change laws and behavior, but it's clearly going to be a whole new approach to greentech and alternative energy that we see in 2009.