A conservative tackles climate change

Sep 23, 2013

Smoke rises from the Colstrip Steam Electric Station in Montana
Credit Matthew Brown / AP Photo

Former congressman Bob Inglis says we’re approaching the issue of climate change the wrong way. The South Carolina Republican says global warming is real but adds that more government regulation isn’t the answer. Inglis, who is now the executive director of the Energy and Enterprise Initiative, speaks Tuesday, September 24th, at 7 p.m. at Western Michigan University. His public presentation in Sangren Hall is sponsored by WMU’s Department of Political Science, the Environmental Studies Program, and the Lee Honors College.

Instead of more federal rules, Inglis says Congress should approve a tax on carbon emissions while reducing others, including personal and business taxes, to be “revenue neutral”. He says that would be a better approach than the recent announcement of lower federal limits on carbon emissions by new coal-fired power plants. Inglis calls such regulations a “job-killing, emission-raising regulatory ‘price’ on carbon”. In his view, imposing a flat-out tax on emissions would be a “free market” approach that drives home the true cost of burning fossil fuels. Inglis says those costs are already being paid through disease caused by pollution and climate change but aren’t felt at the gas pump of the electric meter. Failing to demand accountability is a kind of government subsidy, according to Inglis, just like tax credits for wind, solar and traditional energy producers which he also opposes.

Bob Inglis
Credit Energy and Enterprise Initiative

Inglis says government’s role should be as the “honest cop on the beat” who holds energy companies accountable for the problems their products cause. In 2010, Inglis lost a congressional re-election bid to a “Tea Party” primary challenger because he spoke openly about the need to deal with climate change. But he says the idea of holding companies accountable for the effects of pollution should appeal to conservatives of all stripes.

Inglis admits that oil, gas, and coal companies won’t be enthusiastic about having their taxes go up. And he agrees that many in his own party in Congress aren’t on board with the idea of a “carbon tax” either. Some prominent Republicans either deny that climate change is happening or that human activity is responsible for it. So Inglis and the Energy and Enterprise Initiative are working in communities around country to promote its “free market” plan. He says lawmakers won’t show leadership on climate change until their constituents demand it. It’s a process that Inglis believes will take time. But he expects that his fellow conservatives will eventually come around on the issue.