Former Congressman Bob Inglis of South Carolina is 'former' at least in part because he told his red-state constituents he accepts global warming as real, and important. So today he heads a private enterprise-oriented outfit called the Energy & Enterprise Initiative that tries to convince conservatives that they ought to be leading the fight against climate change. It's an idea that could use a little boost via probing by conservation-minded journalists dismayed over the curiously rigid partisan divide over global warming in US politics and in other nations as well.
At the climate-focusssed non-profit Yale e360, a magazine and a website, its executive editor Roger Cohn this month has a probing Q&A with Inglis, covering his evolution from skeptic and getting into his conviction – shared in its basics with the likes of such climate soldiers at James Hansen – that private enterprise and the self-interest of consumers will do the heavy lifting. The key is to get the historically external costs of CO2 emissions embedded in energy-related levees at the cash register, gas pump, or utility bill. That is to say, the atmosphere should cease being an open, no-charge sewer for fossil carbon-emitting industry.
Inglis's reasoning is, in essence, that conservatives have the simplest answer. A carbon tax would do it better than any laybyrinth of regulations on coal use, vehicle mileage, or complex systems of subsidies and tax breaks. He's been in the Tracker before, due to an AP story by Seth Borenstein. That was in December in this post. It raised pretty much the question that today's post does. The carbon tax is clearly rising as a topic among the chattering classes who chatter about climate change without laughing at it as a hoax. But so far, the US White House has paid no attention. Why not? Surely lobbyists from environmental and science institutions have tried to hammer away at science adviser John Holdren and others close to the President to take the "do not touch" sign off a carbon tax. One would deeply like to know if any such discussions have occurred.
The State of the Union talk has gotten considerable comment because the President led with climate change when the topic turned from generalities to specific policy remarks. Perhaps if Obama had worked harder to present the issue as inherently about salvaging a livable planet, but not at all a natural battlefield for economic philosopies, and had cited the sorts of things that Inglis has been saying for some time, he'd have scored a pile of points with the huge number of Americans who remain at the pragmatic, Yankee know-how middle of the political spectrum. Instead, he got a bit on the pugnacious side – telling Congress (and you know he's got the GOP in mind) that if it doesn't enact something on carbon emissions that has teeth, he'll just do what he can by executive order. That's not a bad thing to mention. And he did say that some Republican legislators including Sen. John McCain have in the past proposed cap-and-trade legislation to combat carbon emissions. But it would have gone down better, with the public, had he had said more explicitly that economic conservatives would not have to surrender to the libs on some kind of principled line in the dirt.
Other Climate change-related stories following the State of the Union talk:
- Washington Post (Opinion) Stephen Stromberg: In State of the Union, Obama threatends Congress on climate change ;
- National Geographic – Daniel Stone: How Bold a Path on Climate Change in Obama's Sttae of the Union? ;
- Discover Mag / Collide-a-Scape blog – Keith Kloor: Will Obama Heed his Own Call for Climate Action? ; In part, a roundup with links of opinions in other blogs and news accounts.
- Huffington Post – Ryan Grim: State Of The Union Speech Promises Climate Change Executive Action ;
- E&E (Energy and Environment Daily) TV – Monica Trauzzi: Senate, House members react to president's energy and climate proposals; Much of what E&E does is subscriber only to its elite portfolio of newsletters, but this transcript is out in the clear (as is the video it is based upon, available on its current home page). It's a balanced sampling: 5 DEM, 6 GOP.