The Conservative Alternative To A Carbon Tax

Ed Lopez Former Vice Chairman, Republican Liberty Caucus
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In politics, just like the stock market, one knows where the big money play is at any given time. For the past several months in D.C., the big money is behind a carbon tax scheme to address global warming. Whoever is writing the checks decided to rebrand the largest tax increase in the history of the United States as a “conservative” strategy.

As a liberty-loving American, I deeply appreciate President Reagan’s statement:

“Many laws protecting environmental quality have promoted liberty by securing property against the destructive trespass of pollution.”

America’s best scientific minds—at federal agencies, universities, and private industry—warn us that carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels are changing our climate today, and may catastrophically change it future years. Certainly, a conservative approach would be one of caution, adopting policies today as an insurance policy against future risk. The libertarian in me recoils at the prospect of my liberty being attacked by greenhouse gas pollution.

But, as Benjamin Zycher of the American Enterprise Institute delineated in a 15-page March 2017 report, a carbon tax is conservative only as a type of insurance against risk. Its impact in the U.S. economy and families would be anything but conservative.

ConservAmerica, a group of time-tested conservative conservationists, has proposed a strategy that is effective, pragmatic, doable, and conservative. They call it Zero Regrets Energy Tax Reform. Simplistically, it:

  • Removes federal taxes from zero emission energy sources like nuclear, wind, hydro, and solar. This establishes the price signal so often mentioned by carbon tax acolytes.
  • In our regulated energy markets, the approximate $3.5 billion tax cut passes through as $5.5 billion in electric bill reductions for consumers.
  • Regulatory commissions and utilities will recognize a clear incentive to accelerate investment in zero emission capital assets.
  • Coal and natural gas industries will have ramped up incentives to burn those fuels more cleanly.

The tax cut would supplant the costly need for state-by-state subsidies for nuclear power, and would be paid for three-times over by replacing federal clean energy incentives.

Enacting Zero Regrets would be a victory for President Trump and the Republicans in Congress. It plainly answers the critics of the Administration’s climate policies, delivers a tax cut to a growing, innovative industry and ratepayer relief for millions of voters, incents coal country to improve, and is accretive to the federal budget.

Now, that’s conservative.

Ed Lopez is the former national vice chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus.