Monday, April 6, 2009

Rep. Inglis Engages Climate Skeptics: Tax CO2, Not Work.

Who'd have expected a Republican from South Carolina to emerge as one of the clearest voices for effective climate policy? After a trip to Antarctica where scientists showed him ice cores that record the jump in CO2 levels now warming the Earth, Congressman Bob Inglis (R-SC) is convinced: "The evidence is compelling: Global Warming is a real, human-caused problem."

Inglis addresses skeptics with a science experiment:

“This is an egg... from the grocery store that’s been sitting there in some vinegar. Vinegar, as you remember from high school science, is an acid, and when it encounters the calcium on this egg, the calcium gets dissolved by the acid of the vinegar. This is essentially the problem with carbon dioxide levels rising in the atmosphere and the ocean being a sink for that carbon dioxide.

“...CO2 levels in the atmosphere are causing the ocean to become more acidic, and potentially dissolve the shells of the calcium based plankton. We would open a hole in the bottom of the food chain, and the result would be a very serious impact in human life on this planet.

“Unlike the models which really are very complicated, this is really a very simple chemical equation, and it will happen any time you have calcium coming in contact with an acid. So it’s more certain and something that therefore should cause us to act.

Inglis points out that we can take action without hurting ourselves. Now, we dump CO2 into the air as a free good. If we price it, and use the money to reduce other taxes we can gain in three ways. Less pollution, more jobs and better national security.

He explains, "Start with a tax reduction, that’s something conservatives can warm to, and make it a payroll tax reduction, something liberals are excited about... Reduce the taxes on payroll, and then in equal amount, apply a tax on carbon dioxide, so there’s no additional take to the government. There’s no tax increase there, it’s reducing one tax, and imposing a tax on something different. It’s reducing taxes on something we want more of which is Labor, Industry and income, and imposing a tax on something we want less of, which is carbon dioxide.

“If we do that, and then apply that mixture to imported goods as well as domestically produced goods, so we’re not simply exporting jobs and exporting the problem, what we can do is change the economics, so that incumbent technologies no longer have a free good in the air, and a free pass on the national security implications of that product. If you internalize those externals, attach those external costs to the products - to the fossil fuels - then the competing technology has a chance to win.

“[W]e can do for energy what Microsoft and Apple did for the PC and the internet. We can break through to a future that’s not dependent on fossil fuels, and that uses newer, cleaner, job-creating fuels that also improve the national security of the United States. It really is the triple play of this American century... improve the national security of the United States, create jobs and clean up the air."

See the full report at Congressman Bob Inglis: How to Engage Republicans, even Skeptics, on Carbon Legislation and Inglis' NY Times op-ed with economist Arthur Laffer, An Emissions Plan Conservatives Could Warm To.

Inglis isn't the only one who's getting the idea. The House Ways & Means Committee is catching on, too: see Ways & Means Weighs Bypassing Trading, Going Straight for Carbon Price.

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