Conservative politicians argues Republicans can lead in dealing with climate change
Bob Inglis is out of Congress now, but he's still a committed conservative. Unlike many of his brethren, however, he's ready to tackle climate change. And he says Republicans, conservatives, are in the perfect position to engage on the issue and lead solutions to deal with it.
Polls show many of Mitt Romney supporters don't see climate change as a real problem, but a former Republican congressman believes that conservatives should take the lead on the issue.
Bob Inglis, a former representative from South Carolina, argues a free enterprise solution is the answer to climate disruption. His conservative ideas include a carbon tax and he says Republicans need to stop equivocating about the reality of climate change.
"What we've been doing is sort of assuming that we don't have a very good answer, and the other team has an answer and so therefore let's just decide not to compete," Inglis said. "What I would submit, though, is actually conservatives really are the indispensible partners in this, the ones that must come forward with a solution."
Inglis says that's especially true for two reasons. First, he said, any major issue like this requires a solution that's broadly agreed to by conservatives and liberals. Second, in particular, he said Americans are looking for the sort of "muscular free enterprise" solution that conservatives are good at delivering.
If conservatives don't act on climate change, Inglis says they'll pay for it with diminished support among young people.
"If you're young, you think, 'Gee, that's within the life of my children that I hope to have.' So it means we need to get relevant for those folks so we can show that, really, conservatism has an answer here," he said.
Inglis went so far as to actually introduce a carbon tax during his time in Congress. It went nowhere, but would have seen America reduce taxes on income — "something we want more of," he said — and implement taxes on emissions — "something we want less of."
"It's a replacement for cap and trade. I voted against cap and trade. I found it way too complicated, the free allocations were embarrassing, it decimated American manufacturing and it was a massive tax increase," Inglis said. "I think that a revenue neutral tax swap where there's no additional take to the government, it's just we're changing what we tax, reducing taxes on income, imposing taxes on carbon dioxide and the result is, not only do we have more money in our pocket to afford the innovation, but the innovation is driven by consumers who feel a need for better technology."
Inglis admits the difficult part of his proposal is some expenses would increase. Energy bills, gas prices, would all have to go up to pay for the admissions they produce.
"In the proposal I made you'd have a larger paycheck because we would have reduced some form of income taxation," Inglis said. "We'd be paying the full cost of coal-fired electricity, for example, at the meter, rather than in hidden ways."
We're already paying a great deal for the costs of carbon emissions, Inglis said. We're paying in the forms of increased medical bills, lost workplace productivity and thousands of people who die earlier than they otherwise would.
Inglis says Romney can be who he is — "a champion of free enterprise" — and tackle the problem that is climate change.
"The country is looking for somebody that can lead us out of the great recession. Let's show the country that there's a free enterprise answer on energy and climate and in the process be relevant, especially to those independent voters who are inclined to pay attention to this issue," he said.
Hosted by Bruce Gellerman, "Living on Earth" is an award-winning environmental news program that delves into the leading issues affecting the world we inhabit. More "Living on Earth."