Monday, July 16, 2007

No Dodd-ling on Climate Change

Concord, NH -

Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) was in the heart of Concord vegan country today, but to listen to his words it was clear that political vegetarians need not apply. The topic was energy policy, the scene was the NH Sierra Club headquarters, in a second floor office overlooking the sleepy mill-era brick facades of downtown Concord, and on the menu was a whole lotta red meat. Served rare, and char grilled to boot.

After Dodd blogger and fellow Wes '04er Matt Browner-Hamlin finished setting up the live streaming webcam for D-TV (no, not that D TV) and all the local environmental dignitaries found their places, the room settled in to a polite silence as Senator Dodd entered from stage right. His appearance was typically patrician - a dark navy suit with anchor-emblazoned buttons topped off by his signature slicked-back fine white hair. He clipped on his webcam mic, cracked a joke about Clinton and Edwards' mic awareness, and got to work. He spoke quickly and fiercely, rarely mincing words when it came to the road blocks of serious energy policy.

The first item of business, that which he believes best sets him apart from his peers, was the issue of a corporate carbon tax. Dodd couldn't go on enough about this policy tool. No other Democratic candidates will even say the "t-word", he claimed, and it is the only stick that will get us moving toward his 80% carbon reduction ideas in a timely fashion. He spoke of cap-and-trade in addition, but reiterated that the carbon tax was A-1 in mitigating global climate change.

Dodd suggested the revenues from the carbon tax would bring in some $50B, which would then be used for a number of mitigating factors. The money would hurry along sustainable technology, subsidize and incentivize the use of efficient technology by homeowners and small businesses, and help industry make the changes necessary to achieve the 80% reduction. He shushed the idea that a $50B tax increase was too high a burden on our nation. Instead, he would challenge anyone who to the notion that we are currently paying somewhere between $60B and $300B in taxes and revenues to countries who produce foreign oil. "Am I willing to go to the deli across the street and make the same case?" he asked, "I will and I have." It was the first time I had ever been to a campaign stop held specifically for an interest group so I wonder if Dodd really is that frank and fiery about climate change mitigation on a normal basis.

General carbon reduction wasn't his only topic. Referring to the critical notion that establishing a 50mpg CAFE standard is untenable, Dodd said the idea "that we can't do it is offensive to me. It insults my intelligence." He cited his wife's old 1983 Honda CRX's 43mpg efficiency rate and continued to say that doing this "may save the automobile industry" from foreign competition. He spoke often about the need for more transit, both to give people a chance not to drive and even to relieve the soon-to-be saturated continental airline routes.

More importantly, Dodd told the crowd to demand answers. Don't let the other candidates simply re-state the goals that we all agree with, like becoming more energy independent and reducing greenhouse gases. After closing his speech with his ability to reach out to people who disagree by mentioning the many GOP co-sponsors of his bills over the years (Orrin Hatch, Kit Bond, Jesse Helms, Phil Gramm, Arlen Specter) he mused out loud, "I gotta learn to calm down." And how! Dodd's fiery rhetoric flowed naturally within the Sierra Club gathering, but to outsiders it likely would have smacked of the lofty oratory that only comes from years in the Senate. Dodd certainly had some good ideas, not the least of which was his claim to host a Kyoto-like summit in the US within the first 100 days of his Presidency to show the world we care about climate change, but the package was a little sharp.

If America is a toy consumer, today's package was closer to Johnny Switchblade Adventure Punk than it was to a Beanie Baby. I don't mean to insult anyone's intelligence, of course. Chris Dodd, given all the legislative good he has done over the years, is about as far from Irwin Mainway as you can get. Who knows, maybe the American Public needs a nice romp with Bag o'Glass, after all, lest we all end up with the same fate as Johnny Human Torch.

Afterward I spoke with him about a mutual friend of ours, Chris Foster. Foster is Dodd's nephew and a former teammate of mine at Wesleyan. Dodd's eyes lit up when I mentioned the connection and had nothing but good things to say about both Foster and the Wesleyan team that ushered him in as a freshman back in '03. Respect to the Senator for recognizing that young and dirty '03 team that went something like this - Kiely, Bissell, King, Greeney, Battaglino, Brady, Foster. Future NESCAC and New England champs abound in those ranks!

Again, the webcast of the Dodd visit, potentially starring the back of my head (2nd row, next to the aisle) can be viewed on DTV:

1 comment:

Matt Browner Hamlin said...

Thanks for the feedback - and it was good to see you.

To let you - and your readers - know, Senator Dodd is always passionate when discussing global warming and ending our dependence on foreign oil. His energy policy is one of our main 4 campaign issues (the others are ending the Iraq war, restoring the constitution, and national service).

He's "frank and fiery" on a regular basis - and he's always honest with people if he disagrees with them.

In short, I think you got a fairly representative view of who Chris Dodd is, though I think this is something voters like. Conviction and boldness are what we need now; anything less risks failing to meet our needs as a nation.