The pugnacious environmentalist Henry Waxman has just ousted John Dingell as the House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman.

This is a huge development for the future of climate change reforms, and the future of the U.S. auto industry.

Dingell, the Michigan Democrat and husband to GM executive Debbie, has long been Detroit's most dependable enabler, long working to block regulation of auto CO2 emissions and fuel efficiency standards.

Waxman is not one for half measures, which means that Obama's promises of American leadership on climate change suddenly have much more credibility.

In the short term, Dingell's demotion is another blow to Detroit at this dark hour for the American auto industry. But if carmaking has any future in this country, this is essential if bitter medicine.

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