Friday, February 02, 2007

Global warming bound to burn Big 3

Sunday, January 28, 2007
Nolan Finley
Global warming bound to burn Big 3

The next steamroller that will flatten Detroit is the relentless propaganda campaign projecting polar bears in bikinis and palm trees in Antarctica.

Hysteria over global warming is turning Americans into a bunch of Henny-Pennys, rushing about screaming for someone to do something before we boil to death in the oceans' waters.

Democrats are listening. They see in the alarmism over greenhouse gasses a populist issue they can leverage to keep control of Congress and seize the White House. And they have a solution:

Squeeze the life out of Detroit's automakers.

It now seems inevitable that the Big Three will bear the burden of cooling the earth. President George W. Bush, in his State of the Union address last week, made higher fuel economy standards the centerpiece of his energy plan. And though cleverly crafted to minimize the harm, the proposal affirms the popular sentiment that automakers own the responsibility for stopping global warming.

Always in the past, Detroit could count on one man -- John Dingell -- to stand between its lifeblood industry and the increasing influence of environmental zealots. Big John, restored to chairman of the potent Energy and Commerce Committee, ought to be perfectly positioned this time to fend off the hysterical hordes.

But there's an intense effort to marginalize Dingell, to portray him as a stooge for the industry and, at age 80, out of touch with modern concerns.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi formed a "select committee" on global warming, chaired by the headline hound Ed Markey of Massachusetts, to make an end run around Dingell.

But the Dearborn Democrat remains razor sharp and can still play politics with the very best. He's lined up the votes to beat back Pelosi's power grab, but would rather not use them.

Dingell wrote most of the major environmental protection laws enacted during the past 50 years.

He understands that efforts to preserve the environment must be weighed against the consequences to human beings. Cutting greenhouse gasses by shutting down economic growth, killing vital industries and throwing millions out of work is a suicidal trade-off.

Dingell won't let the auto industry escape scot-free. He'll try to craft a bill that makes them part of the solution, but doesn't crush them with the entire load.

And why should carmakers pay all the cost? Americans create greenhouse gasses in a lot of ways other than driving cars.

Why not put limits on the size of new homes? Allot 500 square feet per person to cut heating fuel and electricity use, and tax any additional space.

Why not place carbon caps on households? Give every person a monthly kilowatt ration, and if they exceed it, they pay.

If global warming is such an urgent problem, then Congress should have the guts to spread the pain broadly.

I wonder how much sympathy Americans will have for the sweaty polar bears when they're standing in the unemployment line, paying double the price for an automobile and staring at the dark screen of their giant TV.

Nolan Finley is editorial page editor of The News. Reach him at or (313) 222-2064. Read his daily blog at, and watch him at 8:30 p.m. Fridays on "Am I Right?" on Detroit Public TV, Channel 56.

© Copyright 2007 The Detroit News. All rights reserved.


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