New Groups Make a Conservative Argument on Climate Change
By Jennifer Ludden — All Things Considered, September 26, 2012
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One topic you don’t hear much about from Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is climate change. Like so much else, it’s become politically divisive, with polls showing Republicans far less likely to believe in it or support policies to address it.
But two new groups aim to work from within, using conservative arguments to win over skeptics.
Former South Carolina Rep. Bob Inglis has already paid a price for being out of step with his party. In 2010, amid a Tea Party surge, the Republican lost his congressional seat, attacked for — among other things — accepting climate science.
These days, Inglis heads the Energy and Enterprise Initiative at George Mason University, making a free market case for tackling global warming.
“We think free enterprise has the answer to energy and climate,” Inglis said at a recent meeting of students with the Wharton Energy Club at the University of Pennsylvania. “There’s an incredible opportunity in energy, if we just get the economics right.”
Inglis proposes eliminating government incentives: no more tax breaks for solar panels or electric cars; no more subsidies for oil companies. Then, he says he would impose a carbon tax on fossil fuels.
We already pay more, he says, just in hidden ways, like detrimental health impacts from coal-fired power plants or higher insurance costs from extreme weather linked to greenhouse gases. This “market distortion,” he says, leaves fossil fuel companies unaccountable.
“I get to privatize my profits and socialize my cost,” he says, referring to how fossil fuel companies might view the status quo. “That’s a pretty good deal as long as you’ll let me get away with it.”
Much better, he tells the business students, to pay the true cost at the gas pump or on your electric bill.
“Then, I, as a consumer out of enlightened self-interest, would seek out the company that you’re going to found, that’s going to supply me with the alternative,” Inglis says, speaking to about three dozen students who intend to pursue careers in the energy sector.
Inglis knows any tax is often a turn-off. He’d offset his carbon tax with a payroll tax cut, but is open to other ideas for keeping it revenue neutral…
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