On Tuesday night, former Congressman Bob Inglis came to Boston College to speak about an economically conservative solution to climate change. Inglis served as a representative of South Carolina from 1993 to 1999 and then again from 2005 to 2011, later going on to create the Energy and Enterprise Initiative (E&EI), a public engagement campaign.
He began with speaking about his background as a Congress member in what he described as the reddest district in the reddest state, and about his conversion to believing in climate change and the need to address it. He admitted he was ignorant about climate change earlier in his career, believing it to be an exaggerated issue by liberal politicians such as Al Gore that he as a conservative should not take seriously because of his political affiliation.
After his son encouraged him to look into the issue, though, he joined the science committee and went to Antarctica where he became convinced of the existence of climate change. He focused on this, coming from a place and former mindset common to his generation that is typically not concerned about or skeptical of environmental issues.
He explained the science of his conversion, the proof he saw from the scientist’s samples of ice dating back thousands of years and providing measurements for the earth’s CO2 levels that coincide with the industrial revolution. The second part of his conversation to a believer in climate change was related to his belief in God. While scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef with someone who also believed in and was inspired by the ability to see God in his creation, Inglis was inspired by the idea that this person was engaging God and other people.
When he first tried to introduce carbon emissions legislation in his red district, however, it failed due to people viewing his admitting that climate change is a problem as “hearsay.” Inglis noted that although he takes a conservative stance on many issues, he voted for TARP and against the surge. In this way he claims to be a rare conservative, and this resulted in his not getting reelected in 2012. Instead he launched the E&EI in order to raise awareness about climate change issues and free market principles solutions to them.
He advocates for a border-adjustable carbon tax and legislation that eliminates fuel subsidies and lowers income taxes. Instead of believing in doing with less, he advocates for being what he described as energy optimists and climate realists. Implementation of his ideas, he said, would create a 100 percent returnable emissions tax, meaning that a new carbon tax would be balanced out by a reduced income tax, making it a logical solution attractive to the left and the right that taxes more of what we want less of and less of what we want more of, respectively.
This would replace legislation that makes technology that harnesses energy from renewable resources impossible to profit from because of the artificially low cost of fossil fuels. He argued that according to free market principles, this technology would then flourish, becoming better and more affordable more quickly.
These principles do not coincide with what he calls the soviet-esque practice of the government picking winners and losers in the economy. Not only do subsidiaries to fossil fuels like oil hinder economic and technological progress by hiding the true cost of them from the public as the gas pump and discouraging the use of other sources of energy, but they also cause more air pollution that drives up healthcare costs.
He says that the swap in subsidies for taxes is quantifiable and necessary for long-term growth and environmental sustainability. Other aspects of the ideas Inglis proposed were involving China instead of limiting focus domestically. He said that when we drive business to China with taxes, we are losing jobs and causing more pollution because those companies end up producing more carbon emissions in the environmental policy devoid China.
Half of his challenge is convincing people that there is an attractive solution to a problem, an alternative to current problematic legislation. He proposes switching to new ideas now, and that cap and trade will not become policy. These new ideas, because they are economically and environmentally friendly and do not play on people’s fear about climate change and propose cuts in quality of life, will be more popular, and thus more likely to be instated.
Featured Image by Kemeng Fan / Heights Editor