If there was ever any doubt that the recently victorious Democratic Party is serious about cutting greenhouse gas emissions and promoting energy efficiency, those doubts were recently put to rest.

In late November, the party’s caucus in the House of Representatives voted 137 to 122 to replace John Dingell, the current chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, with Henry Waxman.

Although an environmentalist, Dingell represents a district in suburban Detroit, and as an ally of the automotive industry has long opposed safety and environmental standards the carmakers have said would hurt their business.

Waxman, on the other hand, represents a well-heeled district in the Los Angeles area and is a strong advocate of environmental initiatives throughout industry-especially as they relate to the Big Three automakers.

As chairman of the committee in charge of everything from interstate commerce to energy conservation, interstate energy compacts, consumer affairs, and energy exploration, supply and pricing, Waxman is now in a position to promote a raft of energy and emissions legislation that have received short shrift under the Bush administration. Whether these initiatives are good or bad is subject to debate. But, one thing is for sure: Things are going to start changing with respect to environmentalism and the automotive industry.

Some may choose to fight legislation they see as either ineffectual or harmful to U.S. economic interests. Others may choose to champion such legislation or help to implement it in the marketplace. Whatever your opinion may be, the reality is that after years of being put on the back burner, environmentalism and the economy are very much back in play. Is your company ready?