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Dingell worried about possible Russian invasion of Ukraine and impacts here at home

Debbie Dingell
Rep. Debbie Dingell
Congresswoman Debbie Dingell


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David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU, and once again, we're going to make time to get a federal perspective on important issues and explore the impacts here at home in Michigan and Washtenaw County. I'm David Fair, and joining us on the other end of the WEMU line is 12th District Congressional Representative Debbie Dingell. And welcome back to our airwaves.

Debbie Dingell: David, great to talk to you. And I hope you're staying warm and safe in the storm.

David Fair: I've made it a mission. How much time this week have you spent getting updates and briefings on another cold area, and that is the situation in Ukraine and the possibility of a Russian invasion?

Debbie Dingell: A lot. I'm very worried about it. Obviously, the president again spoke to us. We saw the Secretary of Defense was at NATO yesterday. Secretary Blinken was at the United Nations with the Security Council. Like most of the American people, I'm hearing very some conflicting predictions. We are getting facts, or at least what I believe are facts, from our State Department and from the White House and from our national intelligence director. There are others. I mean, I've talked to people from Ukraine who think that it won't happen. I think we're all watching what is happening on edge, concern for the world. And I'm not sure what I can do right now. But like every other American, I am glued paying attention and very alert to what I may have to do.

David Fair: As you mentioned, there are conflicting media reports from NPR and other media outlets, and we're all trying to sort that out. Within the confines of the House and Senate walls, in the private conversations amongst yourselves, is there a level of optimism for diplomatic resolution?

Debbie Dingell: To be pragmatic or very honest with you, I think all of us are hoping for a diplomatic solution. It's a mixed facts--facts isn't the right word because we have been given some pretty serious briefings. I think people are concerned about what could happen, but every person I know is hopeful that this will have a diplomatic outcome.

David Fair: The U.S. position, as stated, is one of national and European security and a human rights issue for the people of Ukraine. With such a strong threat of invasion and violence, I would imagine the Pentagon and Secret Service are on high alert here at home, as well. As the situation develops on a different continent, are you and your congressional colleagues being briefed on safety and security measures at the Capitol, should this descend into armed conflict?

Debbie Dingell: We have. We've been on heightened alert since January 6th. I think the day...I mean this is just an interesting story. The day that we were briefed by the Secretary of State, the Defense Secretary, the head of Homeland Security, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the head of the National Intelligence Agency, there was an audible alarm in the building that I work in, the Cannon Building, and none of us knew what to do. I probably shouldn't be saying this on the radio when we went in the house and we all looked into each other. We were actually told to leave. And one of my colleagues actually had a very serious panic attack and was assured that it was a diversion as we actually had a briefing and all of us with that group of people were in a room. But everybody told us they were at heightened alert. They were taking the precautions that they need to. I'd like to tell our listeners that they need to be alert for cyber security. You need to be protecting yourself in ways that any individual can because we have been everybody's been put on alert. This is public that we may get some cyber attacks. So, that is one of the things that I'm very concerned about as well.

David Fair: You are listening to 89.1 WEMU. We're talking with 12th District Congressional Representative Debbie Dingell. And we talk about what we should be doing here in our homes and in our communities now. Should Russia invade Ukraine, there are other implications beyond conflict. Nationally, the average price of a gallon of gas reached $3.51 on Wednesday of this week. That's about a dollar per gallon higher than a year ago and the highest level since October of 2014. And in just the last month, prices in more than a dozen states have jumped 25 cents per gallon. President Biden did warn this week that should the invasion come to pass, we will see increases in energy costs in the U.S. Some are estimating as much as $7 per gallon. What are you looking at as potential measures to help those most in need should we see a significant spike in prices?

Debbie Dingell: Well, David, this is a subject that I have been nonstop on all week. And what are our alternatives on oil? How can we increase the supplies that we can bring the cost down? What is our relationship with other countries? And I know the president is looking at that. A producer price index came out this week, and the reading this month was above expectations. And that, too, it measures the price producers pay rather than consumers pay. What we need to do is, one, the Federal Reserve is going to take reaction. They play the primary role in helping our economy achieve those stable prices. So, I wish Republicans would stop playing games. And one of our own from Ann Arbor has been nominated, and the Senate needs to approve he,r and she needs to get there, and they need to be taking action. But I would also say that we are very focused on repairing. Oil is different. We have got to figure out what we're going to do to increase the oil supply and bring those prices down and make sure that we do not have price gouging. But we also have to work on our supply chains and our infrastructure, and that's starting to happen now. To ease the bottlenecks. Make more here at home. And I think we're seeing the ports of cleared goods are getting in quicker. Some of the bottlenecks that were happening from other countries. Ultimately, we really need to lessen our dependence on goods coming in from other countries and build them here, which creates both jobs and keeps the supply here. And certainly what happened at the Ambassador Bridge last week increased the cost of vehicles. So, keeping that bridge open is also going to be very, very important, too. So, you know, some economists are saying prices may come down, not will come down this year. Look. Anybody who's just bought and had to move, which I'm happy to do, knows the cost of goods are and the availability. I'm feeling it every day, and I go into the grocery store every weekend and not only do I buy, but I'm comparing the cost of milk and eggs and bread and other goods. And people raise for me on my Facebook. It's real, and we've got to explore every avenue we can to try to lower gas prices.

David Fair: And coming back to energy in specific and oil prices, some of your Republican counterparts say this is an object lesson in being better prepared. In fact, they hearken back to that phrase, "Drill baby. Drill." More offshore drilling. The drilling in the Arctic preserve. Areas that we have avoided doing. But now we're looking at a situation where perhaps they think this is the time to put those measures forth once again.

Debbie Dingell: I think we're going to have thoughtful conversations about what we need to do, which I hope just doesn't come to pass. But I want people to think about how they feel in our own Great Lakes, with the Enbridge five line underneath the Great Lakes, which ahs come close to having a number of oil spills. Anchors have hit that pipeline. And how we would feel if we had an oil spill in the Great Lakes. Nothing in life is easy. There are very significant tradeoffs, and I'm not going to make a snap decision or say this to you on this phone. We've got to lessen our dependance on foreign oil. We've said that for years. We've got to lessen our dependance on oil, period. When we develop alternative sources of energy, which we are now doing. And, quite frankly, when we were talking about renewables in this state, we're one of the states leading on it, everybody said it would never work. It would be too expensive. Well, it is working, and it's not expensive. So, we've got to keep developing those alternative ways as well. So, we're not endangering the environment, but we're not paying absolutely outrageous prices for fossil fuels either. This is a real discussion we need to be having and not blocking everything, which we're doing in Washington, but actually getting the job done.

David Fair: Once again, we're talking with U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell on 89 one WEMU. And with those conversations in mind, for both financial and environmental reasons, there is good reason to want to expedite the American and global infrastructure to become more reliant on renewable energies instead of these fossil fuels. Might this situation be something that does bring the parties closer together toward that end?

Debbie Dingell: I would hope so. I don't know. I do know that Republicans even now acknowledge global climate is real. I mean, every state across the country, you've seen some impact of it, from the floods to the hurricanes to the wildfires. It's just very unpredictable weather. People still like to fight. I wish we could find a way for people to come together more to find their common ground, to not put labels on each other, but to solve problems. We have to do that. This country and the world is rapidly heading for some very serious crises that we have not seen in decades.

David Fair: So, what we as a public want to do is explore the facts. But facts these days are too often viewed as political and partisan opinion. How do we get back to putting truth to work, whatever the truth may be?

Debbie Dingell: Well, I would ask people to think about that--to look. Social media is often the location of fake facts, as we call them. You need to go to credible media. NPR is credible media. MSNBC, CNN. Quite frankly, if you watch Fox during the day, they tend to have facts. But go look it up yourself. Talk to people that you know and you trust. We need facts. We have become too fapable. I don't even want to use the word partisan. There's just a fear and division and hatred in this country that I fear is really dividing us and attacking the fundamental roots of our democracy.

David Fair: We will continue our conversation the next time we get together. Thank you so much for the time today.

Debbie Dingell: Thank you, David. Be safe.

David Fair: That is Congresswoman Debbie Dingell on 89 one WEMU FM and HD One Ypsilanti.

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Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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