When Republican Congressman Bob Inglis presented legislation in 2009 that would create a tax to battle climate change, South Carolina voters thought he had gone rogue, or at least liberal.
And so Inglis lost his re-election bid in the subsequent Republican primary.
Today, though, Inglis believes Conservatives and Republicans are more willing to listen to ideas on curbing climate change if they come from people like them.
Inglis will be presenting a talk on “A Free Enterprise Solution to Climate Change” April 17 in Rochester. His talk is sponsored by an unlikely pairing: the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and the Rochester Regional Group of the Sierra Club.
Now the head of RepublicEN.org, a grassroots organization, the former U.S. representative spends his time promoting ways to address climate change in accordance with traditional conservative values.
“Free enterprise can fix climate change,” Inglis says in his TEDx Jacksonville talk. He is once again suggesting a carbon tax but in a way that doesn’t grow government and includes preventive steps so countries that continue to produce carbon emissions won’t have an upper hand.
The tax would not add revenue to government coffers, Inglis says, but will counter other taxes people must pay, resulting in a revenue-neutral tax. Meanwhile, he says, the tax would be added to imports made with carbon-generating energy.
In a recent phone interview, Inglis said, “As I see it, conservatives are people who believe in the salad bar of life. You can take what you want, but you’ve got to pay for what you take because otherwise, havoc arises,” Inglis said. “Climate change is that havoc.”
“There’s nothing more conservative than maintaining the purity of the earth,” he said.
The November 2018 midterm elections, when the Republicans lost control of the House of Representatives, have helped bring to Republicans and Conservatives “the awareness of if you want the majority back, you’ve got to win in suburban districts. And those suburban districts don’t want to hear you say climate change isn’t real,” Inglis said.
Beyond the political change of tide, times have really changed, Inglis said. The recession is over, there’s a growing environmental movement on the right, and “we’re feeling the effects of climate change and we’re beginning to notice,” he said.
“When grandpa is having chest pains, he will stick to the diet and regimen the cardiologist is recommending,” Inglis said.
It is essential to reach a bipartisan solution to climate change, Inglis said, because when the political pendulum swings, one party will scrub the gains that the other enforces unilaterally. He proposes appealing to the bottom line by including the hidden costs of pollution in energy use.
Inglis supports “the creation of a transparent market price where all the costs are in all the fuels, including the biggest subsidy of all, which is the implicit subsidy that enables fossil fuels to pollute for free.”
He continues, “We have a problem with economics. It has an environmental consequence. If we fix the economics, the environment is going to take care of itself.”
And with economics favoring clean energy, Inglis said that’s when things get innovative.
“Then you have an energy revolution that’s sort of akin to the tech revolution we’ve had. It’s a tremendous opportunity to re-power our lives,” he said.
In his TED talk, Inglis admits he had opposed Al Gore’s climate change policies without examining them too much because they came from a Democrat. Once his children became voters and suggested they wouldn’t vote for him if he didn’t become more environmentally friendly, Inglis took a second look at his stance and came around to much of what Gore was proposing, but with some conservative tweaks.
Inglis said he believes Republicans and Conservatives are willing to consider a similar leap if they hear the message coming from someone like themselves.
“We all learn from people who are like us and like us. We generally don’t learn from people who don’t like us and aren’t like us,” Inglis said.
Inglis’ talk will be at the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center. Admission is free but a $10 donation and prior registration is suggested.
[email protected]/(585) 363-7275.