House Democrats Plan On Energy & Transportation

John Dingell, D-Michigan, Ranking Democrat on Energy and Commerce Committee

With the Democrats now back in charge of the US House of Representatives, I thought it would be interesting to review their latest working document on energy and transportation policy. Back in July, a group of House Democrats released their vision of an energy and transportation policy to reduce dependence on oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Leading House Democrats, including Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD), Rep. John Dingell (MI), Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Democrat, Rep. Jim Oberstar, Transportation Committee Ranking Democrat, Rep. Mark Udall (CO), co-chair of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus, Rep. Stephanie Herseth (SD), co-chair of the House Democratic Rural Working Group and member of the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, member of the House Transportation Committee and Task Force on Livable Communities, and Rep. Adam Schiff, member of the House International Relations Committee and co-chair/co-founder of the Democratic Study Group on National Security, released the following statements today after unveiling a comprehensive energy independence bill entitled the "PROGRESS Act."

So what's inside the Progress Act?

There are five major components:

  1. Establishing a National Energy Security Commission that would bring together government, industry and academic leaders to develop national goals that respect regional energy solutions and develop recommendations that Congress would have to act upon under expedited rules.

  2. Establishing a New Manhattan Center for High Efficiency Vehicles that would create an advanced vehicle efficiency consortium and commit a minimum of $500 million a year for ten years to federal alternative fuels and vehicle technology programs in the federal government.

  3. Establishing a National Biofuels Infrastructure Development Program that would reimburse private sector partners to share the costs of investing in the wholesale and retail biofuels pumps, tanks, and other related distribution equipment.

  4. Promoting Transit Use & Developing a Rail Infrastructure Program that would create a stimulus package of infrastructure investment that upgrades the pipeline for biofuels - the freight rail system - in order to get an affordable and reliable supply of biofuels to market.

  5. Ensuring Federal Government Leadership in the Use of the Alternatives to Oil by increasing the use of alternative fuels in federal and state fleets, developing biofuel plants in every region of the country, and speeding development of standards that are needed to promote alternative fuels use.

Thoughts from our dear readers?

Too much emphasis on "how will we drive when there is no oil" and not nearly enough on avoiding driving altogether. I suggest committing $500 million a year to rail electrification. That's 250 track-miles per year, and over 10 years, that could cover much of the busiest freight and passenger rail corridors, increasing efficiency and of course speed, and reducing car and truck use.
Agreed. Reducing need for automobiles in the first place should be priority #1. I thought the whole biofuels thing seems a little too much. I'm all for investigating EROEI and such, but this seems to assume that they will be a major part of our transportation fuel future. I really don't think it's scaleable given basic physical limitations.
There is some more specifically from Rep. Dingell on his energy priorities:

Incoming House panel head sets energy priorities
15:21 ET, Wed 8 Nov 2006

By Chris Baltimore

WASHINGTON, Nov 8 (Reuters) - The Michigan Democrat who will head the House Energy and Commerce Committee next year previewed on Wednesday his energy priorities: cleaner cars powered by diesel and electricity, storing waste from U.S. nuclear reactors and probing offshore federal lease deals.

Rep. John Dingell, who has been a U.S. lawmaker since 1955, also gave a strong indication of what he did not plan to do: raise fuel-efficiency standards for U.S. automobiles.

Democrats regained control of the House in Tuesday's election and Dingell is set to take the gavel of the House Energy Committee from Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton.

As chairman, Dingell will hold the reins of a committee that writes the lion's share of energy legislation considered by House lawmakers, and holds wide powers to probe corporate America.

Dingell, whose home district includes Detroit's big three automakers -- Ford Motor Co. <F.N>, General Motors Corp. <GM.N> and Chrysler Group <DCX.N> <DCXGn.DE> -- downplayed the need for boosting U.S. fuel economy rules.

"I'm not sure that there's any urgent needs for us to address those questions," Dingell told CNBC in an interview.

Dingell told reporters that any rule changes should weigh "the needs, the costs, the technological ability and the economic ability of industry and the market to absorb these changes."

The U.S. transportation sector accounts for about half the nation's daily oil needs of about 20 million barrels.

New U.S. vehicles are the fastest and heaviest in three decades, with the fleet's fuel efficiency no better than the figure for 1994 -- about 21 miles per gallon -- according to government figures.

However, Dingell said Congress should approve more incentives for U.S. automakers to retool cars to burn alternate fuels like ethanol and clean-burning diesel, and to make more cars that run on electricity rather than fossil fuel.

Dingell also spoke favorably of boosting electricity produced from nuclear reactors, and called on Congress to solve the problem of where utilities can store spent nuclear fuel, which is piling up at 131 sites in 39 states while the fate of an underground repository in Nevada remains uncertain.

Dingell called nuclear energy "one of the most promising and necessary courses that we can take in terms of weaning ourselves off foreign oil."

Dingell said Congress also needs to reexamine faulty drilling leases the government signed with energy companies in the late 1990s that so far have cost the government almost $2 billion in lost royalties.

"If you lift the lid on that you will probably find some bad smells on leasing very specifically," Dingell said.

In those disputed leases, the Interior Department forgot to include language that would have ended a waiver of royalties when oil and gas prices reached high levels.

Without the price threshold provision in the contracts to limit the royalty break, the government could lose up to $10 billion in royalties over the life of the drilling leases.

It is not at all obvious to me that they "get it". The two pieces to ANY solution are missing and/or tucked away to avoid "voter shock":

  1. A much higher gas tax to stop people from wasting gas in oversized cars.

  2. Much higher efficiency standards to allow people to purchase more efficient vehicles.

Without either of these measures nothing else will make a significant difference. It is not a technical problem as the thriving compact car market in Europe shows, but simply a matter of government enforcing the right things.
thats only if you are thinking about cars and how we get around. It might make even more sense to have a carbon tax instead. That way we could take into account global warming and start moving to renewables instead or just reducing consumption to begin with

Another idea is the Energize America plan put together at DailyKos as well. Its quite comprehense


Speaking as a Michigan voter, I can assure you that Dingell DOES NOT get it.  His voter base to date has depended on him not "getting it".

This is why he should not be made chair of that committee.

Agree. Dingell is THE reason that CAFE standards have not been pursued. We should expect a lot of pork for the auto-makers to investigate Hydrogen and other dead-ends.
Yes, Dingell is a whore to the auto industry. Nevertheless you
can contact him at the following page:

Use Ypsilanti, MI 48197 as an address.