Cross-posted at Daily Kos
No, that headline is not a typo, and no, Blue Virginia has not been bought by Rupert Murdoch.
Yes, I am still against the vast majority of what Republicans stand for. But I sure miss a certain category of Republican, the type who acknowledges the reality of our society’s problems and actively works with people on all sides of the political spectrum to seek solutions. Yes, this now-endangered species used to be fairly common.
In today’s GOP, sadly, such leaders are being wiped out by the Tea Party Mob, who consider the likes of, say, Richard Lugar unacceptable because of such transgressions as working with former Senator Obama on nuclear non-proliferation. Another casualty of the last election was Rep. Bob Inglis, who — although highly conservative on almost every issue — was defeated for a few “transgressions”, including acknowledging the reality of climate change and the need to deal with it and our energy challenges in a mature and thoughtful manner.
Inglis has now been named to head a new Energy and Enterprise Initiative at George Mason University. And that’s good news for all of us.
The goal of this “nationwide public engagement campaign” is to “explore and promote conservative solutions to America’s energy and climate challenges.” Granted, “conservative solutions” has become an oxymoron thanks to morons like Palin, Paul and Romney, who have zero solutions other than slashing government, cutting taxes, reducing voter turnout and regulating women’s bodies. But it is indeed for that reason that we need conservatives to turn away from conspiracy theories and shock-and-awe political carpet-bombing campaigns towards sitting down to conceive and negotiate reality-based solutions — especially to our twin climate and energy challenges, about which the US continues to do disturbingly little.
As he outlines in this EE News interview, Inglis seeks “free market solutions” to climate change. While I don’t think this is the whole answer to the problem, it is an important part of it. I don’t agree with him, for example, that renewable energy doesn’t need any subsidies, because it otherwise will be too difficult to quickly overcome the fossil fuel industries’ century-plus head start.
But I strongly agree with him that the Federal government should immediately stop subsidizing oil, gas and coal. I agree even more strongly with his goal of encouraging energy efficiency and renewable energy development through price signals:
[L]et’s attach all costs to all fuels. So let’s make coal, for example, fully accountable for all of its health costs. If you do that, it really changes the economics of what wind and solar look like and what nuclear looks like.
The strongest price signal would be through a carbon tax, which Inglis advocates: “basically, stop taxing something that you want more of, which is income, labor, industry, and start taxing something you want less of, which is pollution.” (A solution that environmentalists like Paul Hawken and Al Gore have been advocating for years, and also the approach being taken by a very interesting grassroots group, the Citizens Climate Lobby.)
While I remain deeply skeptical that he can sell any kind of tax to his Republican colleagues, it’s important for him to try and see if it can lead to any productive avenues. While I would love to defeat all the wacko Republicans at the polls this November, the reality is that a blowout which gives Democrats a bulletproof majority in Congress is highly unlikely. That means that we will need partners on the other side of the aisle in order to get anything done. For that we need conservatives who see climate change as something other than a vast conspiracy of evil scientists. America needs a conservative movement that is not completely divorced from reality if we are to get anything done at all.
And our climate change and energy crisis cannot wait any longer. So I welcome Rep. Inglis to George Mason and Virginia. I encourage him to follow in the tradition of one of my favorite old-time Republicans, Jack Kemp, who sought and implemented real, market-based solutions that helped people’s lives, like Enterprise Zones. We certainly won’t agree with you much of the time, Rep. Inglis, but please engage us, even challenge us. In a year when half the country has suffered severe drought, and states like Colorado and Texas have been devastated by record heat and wildfires, it should be obvious that the time for shouting and denial needs to end and the time to come together and find solutions must finally begin.