Politics & Media
May 01, 2009, 05:48AM

Republicans Have to Start Owning the Green Movement

The issue is too pressing to simply let one party dominate the discussion.

Captiol reef.jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1

Photo of Capitol Reef National Park by Wolfgang Staudt

It’s now time for Republicans to reclaim the “Green” mantle from Democrats.

It was, after all, Republican President Teddy Roosevelt who institutionalized the conservation movement and took it to new heights with his National Parks initiatives. Since then, however, the conservation movement fractured and Republicans unnecessarily ceded the high ground on environmental matters to the Democrats. As the party is rebuilt, Republicans should aim to make conservative-based “green” issues a centerpiece of that effort.

That fact is we all need to breathe cleaner air, drink cleaner water, and substantially reduce the use of energy sources that fund terrorism and Middle Eastern dictators. The disagreement comes in how we can best achieve that goal. By relying too much on the coercive power of government and overzealous social engineers, Democratic policies are incongruent with American ideals and the practical world. They seem to believe economic growth must necessarily be restrained in order to arrest environmental decline. On the other hand, Republican policies are friendlier to both the environment and the taxpayer. Republicans know that a cleaner environment and a prosperous economy need not be mutually exclusive.

We are now witnessing this policy dichotomy on the national stage, where Democrats have unwisely attached themselves to program known as Cap and Trade. If enacted, Cap and Trade would represent an enormous tax increase on all Americans who use electricity— everyone, in other words. According to a recent MIT study, the Cap and Trade scheme would cost the average American household more than $3100 per year—a tax increase few Americans can afford.

There are also reasons to doubt the efficacy of such a program. Europe, which enacted a similar cap and trade proposal, is now scrambling to fix their trading scheme after emissions actually rose by nearly two percent during the first phase of the program and the price of emitting a ton of carbon collapsed from $30 to $1. Furthermore, European laborers who worked for energy-intensive industries suffered as their jobs were shipped overseas to countries that don’t have to meet restrictive energy guidelines. In Spain—the country on which President Obama models his green jobs initiative—2.2 jobs were lost for every one “green” job gained. And these jobs generally paid less.

On the other hand, Republicans have offered green alternatives that would be more effective in reducing pollution and our dependency on foreign sources of energy, while preserving the potential for economic prosperity.

In Oklahoma, my home state, Republicans have led the way to increase market incentives to use alternative energy. The GOP has provided for tax credits for businesses and homeowners to install solar energy equipment and wind turbines for clean wind power. Currently awaiting a vote in the Oklahoma House are Republican bills to provide tax incentives for the construction of energy efficient homes and to require public agencies to adopt energy efficient programs. Unfortunately, the boldest measures to provide advanced, clean nuclear energy are being shot down by those who are stuck in the 1960s. These are all small steps that will have a large, long-term friendly impact on the environment and the economy.

But it’s not enough. States must use their natural competitive advantages rather than relying on the Democrats’ one-size-fits-all approach. Experience shows that once market incentives manifest and burdening regulatory schemes are eliminated, new businesses spring up and old energy companies invest in their state’s natural energy advantages. Oklahoma, for instance, is home to one of the largest wind turbine suppliers and two of the largest natural gas producers.  They are taking advantage of our wind resources to create wind farms and push for greater use of cheap and clean-burning natural gas in homes and vehicles.  

Finally, Republicans in Oklahoma and the rest of the nation must lead the way in updating the energy grid to make it more efficient. Too much energy is wasted in transmission—in fact, some of it, such as wind power, can’t even be transmitted—because of an outdated grid. To his credit, President Obama has already proposed taking the initial steps to update the grid, but his proposal is more tailored to special energy interests than it is to making a comprehensive and durable upgrade.

Politically, ceding environmental issues to Democrats makes no sense. Younger voters, whom the GOP desperately needs, consistently name the environment and energy independence as two of their top issues. These are votes the GOP has likely lost before voting even begins. That can be changed. By aggressively promoting green solutions for energy independence and preserving the environment, Republicans can win over a large portion of voters and perform a public service.

After all, good policy is good politics.

The author is the Young Republicans Chair of Cleveland County, OK.

  • I think you're too quick to embrace "clean nuclear" technology. Nuclear waste is one of the most dangerous substances that man has ever been smart enough to produce. We spent 30 years trying to find a depository for it in Yucca Mountain, but failed. Nuclear waste is going to be with us for thousands and thousands of years. I think it's worth it to try to find other alternative energy sources. You mention several - wind, solar, and hopefully some as-yet-undiscovered technology.

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  • I applaud the enthusiasm of Joseph Fairbanks and hope he's right that the GOP is attempting to attract new voters. Unfortunately, at least short-term, this will be difficult with national leaders like the ossified John Boehner leading the discussion for the minority party.

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  • Not to pile on, but Green Republican is, I believe, an oxymoron.

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  • Christian, I think that's the point of the article...to unmake the term Green Republican an oxymoron.

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  • The bigger problem is the misinformation out there. Even in this article, the author refers to a widely debunked interpretation of the MIT study. The report did NOT state that the Cap and Trade "scheme" would cost the average household $3,100 per year. I don't care if you are repub, dem or other, good policy comes from good/accurate facts!

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  • That study was not debunked. Professor Reilly, who initially disputed the report, acknowledged that the study was correct and that his initial problem with the report came from a faulty decision on how to calculate the tax. http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/016/412cwueq.asp

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  • "In other words, Reilly estimates that "the amount of tax collected" through companies would equal $3,128 per household--and "Those costs do get passed to consumers and income earners in one way or another""

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  • You just proved my point. Cherry picking quotes, be it by the weekly standard, Politifact or yourself, and using them too support one's particular political view may be compelling but does not make it factually accurate. 1)In fact, I never said the study was debunked, it was the calculation used by Repubs that was debunked 2) The study never uses the "per household" calculation 3) If more people, particularly politicians, chose to read the study rather than biased interpretations of the study, perhaps there would be a more accurate, fact-based debate that could provide good policy.

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  • In fact, your point wasn't proven. The study does not need to say "per household" for you to perform simple calculations to find the per household cost. And anyone with the slightest economic education knows that taxes on companies are passed to the consumer--something the MIT study critic acknowledges. Furthermore, let's assume you're correct and the particular $3,100 interpretation is, in fact, incorrect. The fact remains that CnT will represent a massive tax increase on every consumer of energy, whether it be Prof. Reilly's $800 tax increase or the $3100 or $3900 calculation. This is something President Obama acknowledged when he admitted energy rates would "skyrocket" and something Democrat John Dingell agrees is true when he said "Cap and Trade is a tax increase and it's a great big one." Lastly, the thesis of the article isn't based on a single number, as you appear to be arguing. There's a much bigger point. You and I can argue about the interpretation of the MIT study until world ends, but it doesn't change the fact that 1) the CnT program does massively increase taxes on the consumer and 2) Republicans need to aggressively assert their own green policy.

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  • I'd argue that the per household metric is misleading at best and actually irrelevant to the how much increase the average citizen will see. These arguments posted take no account of the coporate and industriul uses, increasing efficiencies; resulting in less power being used. Therefore you are left with only your assumption "CnTprogram does massively increase taxes on the consumer" Leaving you with an assumption with no logical backing. 2)I'd say all parties involved need to assert their own green policy based on fact and not bs metrics used for the purpose of fear and ignorance

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  • I don't understand how the Republicans don't already consider this an extremely important issue. Like you said, everyone needs to breathe clean air. It's about time more people rallied behind the green movement.

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