Typically, Democrats assign chairmanships based on seniority. The energy committee is the starting point for bills addressing energy and global warming.
Rep. Waxman has generally advocated for tougher environmental laws than Dingell has, according to the Wall Street Journal. Rep. Waxman has said he wants to more aggressively pursue policies to address climate change next year. Rep. Dingell, hailing from auto industry country, has been less than enthusiastic about CAFE standards to increase fuel efficiency. He also introduced a bill last year to repeal the EPA's Clean Air Act authority to regulate global warming pollution.
The major constituencies of both men have strong opinions of the other. "The fur would really fly" if Waxman became chairman, said David Cole of the Center for Automotive Research. He called the potential change "unfortunate."
Dan Becker of the Safe Climate Campaign called Dingell an enemy of efforts to improve the environment.
To become chair, Waxman has to earn a majority vote by the 50-member Democratic Steering Committee and then its ratification by the full Democratic Caucus.
Let's hope that whoever ends up with the chair, honest efforts are made to balance industry's reality with true leadership on fighting global warming. And now with an Obama administration, there should be the expectation and the demand that meaningful progress is made on energy.