“Conservatives have the answer. We just need to raise our hands.” This statement is from Bob Inglis, former representative of South Carolina’s 4th District. Inglis told me he believes Conservatives are an “indispensible part of the solution” to energy and environmental issues.
We spoke by telephone in a conversation that covered topics from the background of his grassroots organization, Energy and Enterprise Initiative (E&EI), to his thoughts on fracking and renewable energy. His attitude was upbeat. He is convinced that “free enterprise and accountability” can pave the way toward solving America’s energy concerns.
Inglis was clear about the need for Conservatives and Republicans to “step up and lead.” He noted that the “climate change matter was started by liberals,” so Conservatives think they have no place in the dialogue. His response to this is, “Don’t shrink in science denial.”
Admitting that the Republican Party is “perceived as being against climate change,” he acknowledged, “That is what dominant voices are promoting.” He added, “My party has been engaged in a detour of populist rejectionism.” Rejecting their rejectionism, he said, “I’m very optimistic that things are beginning to turn, and that Republicans will be offering solutions and not looking for scapegoats.”
Inglis opined, “As the economy improves, I think my party is going to have to offer up real solutions to succeed. You can’t just sow discontent.” One of the top catalysts Inglis sees is what he calls, “The generational challenge.” He pointed out, “Young people are more inclined to accept science—and they want solutions.”
So what exactly are Inglis’s solutions to the climate issue?
He believes there are “three pillars” to a conservative and free-market solution to energy and climate policy:
- Eliminate all subsidies for all fuels, from fossil fuels to renewables
- Attach all costs to all fuels—in order to get a true cost comparison
- Ensure revenue neutrality, to prevent the growth of government
On the importance of all forms of energy being held “fully accountable” for how they impact the environment, Inglis suggested, “Let the government be the cop on the beat.” (Ironically, he does not support EPA regulation of carbon, defining it as “costly, cumbersome, and litigious.”) In the long run, he deems price signals as being more effective than government regulations.
Inglis promotes the premise of a “100 percent revenue-neutral carbon tax.” This tax would be paired dollar for dollar with a reduction in a pre-existing tax—thereby reducing taxes elsewhere. “No growth of government here,” he stressed.
“If you set the economics right, the consumer will drive innovation. That will include renewables, and we will have exciting breakthroughs.” Inglis explained that a carbon tax would bring a realization, through comparison, that the cost of green energy is closer to the actual cost of fossil fuels. Repeatedly referencing the phrase “true cost comparisons between fuels,” Inglis underscored the health related fallout from fossil fuels—impacting lives as well as the economy.
Taking a page out of the book of the insurance sector, Inglis emphasized that insurance companies were “natural allies of Conservatives in Congress.” He said, “They have actuaries who listen very carefully to scientists.”
Seeing natural gas as a fuel to combine with wind and solar initiatives, Inglis stated that fracking companies must disclose the chemicals they are using in their process, noting that as of yet, they haven’t been forthcoming with their “recipe.” He grants that fracking has problems, such as “the escape of natural gas” during the process, yet sees coal as having more drawbacks. He reiterated that he supported fracking, but wanted to see it done “in a safe way with appropriate standards.” He appended his thought with the assertion, “There’s no perfect solution.” This conundrum came up again when Inglis discussed his support of nuclear power. On the concern of nuclear waste, he responded, “You store it responsibly. Everything has a trade off.”
Inglis’s record in Congress during his tenure shows that he was willing to vote “against” his party on various bills. He was also one of the numerous causalities of the Tea Party’s impact during the Republican primaries of 2010,
Trey Gowdy now represents the 4th District of South Carolina. During a debate for the seat in 2010, the question of whether “climate change was man-made” was raised. Gowdy’s response was, “Global warming has not been proven to the satisfaction of the constituents I seek to serve.”
Promoting the Energy Enterprise Initiative tag line of, “Putting free enterprise to work on energy and climate,” Inglis remains tenacious in bringing a different perspective to the existing equations, bringing Conservative thinkers into the environmental space, and broadening the circle of participants.