In a nutshell, his spare bill calls for forcing polluters to pay a carbon tax that would rise incrementally over a 30-year span and, in tandem, reduce Social Security payroll taxes.
He’s convinced that the onus of an ever-increasing tax would unleash American ingenuity in the energy sector. As well, lower payroll taxes would give household pocketbooks extra money to invest in clean technology and cover higher electricity and fuel costs that are inherent as solar, wind and other renewables replace fossil fuels.
“Individual consumers acting in their own self-interest will create a marketplace that will efficiently drive down prices and do what we’ve done with the telecommunications and computer industries,” he said. “The genius of America is that people seeking to make money will innovate quickly.”
Waxman and Markey’s 1,200-page bill became watered down and unpredictable, he stressed, because it was so larded up with handouts to well connected polluters.
“The certainty and transparency of a carbon tax that is revenue-neutral will drive innovation much faster than the uncertainties of carbon trading,” he said. “That kind of accountability is a bedrock conservative principle. Actually, it’s even a biblical principle.”
Jazzed About Turning a “Triple Play”
Inglis touts a carbon tax as a classic win-win-win because it makes the nation less reliant on oil imports from enemies, creates homegrown clean technology jobs and cleans up air sullied with pollutants from burning fossil fuels.
“It creates a new plateau of an energy economy,” said Inglis, now a disciple of the insights of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. “Whether we will do it or the Chinese will do it, who owns the 21st century hangs in the balance.
“If we press the pause button, we’ll wake up in a few years and the Chinese will be way on down the road,” he continued. “What we need is a Sputnik moment,” he said, adding that our determination to beat the Russians to the moon in the 1950s and 1960s provided the resolve to pursue scientific solutions.
Months before he rolled out his little-noticed bill, Inglis collaborated with renowned conservative economist Art Laffer to give his ideas credibility with a certain audience. Laffer served on President Ronald Reagan’s Economic Policy Advisory Board in the 1980s.
“We need to impose a tax on the thing we want less of (carbon dioxide) and reduce taxes on the things we want more of (income and jobs),” the two wrote in a December 2008 opinion piece in The New York Times. “A carbon tax would attach the national security and environmental costs to carbon-based fuels like oil, causing the market to recognize the price of these negative externalities.”
Feather Ruffler Urges Congress to Shape Up
Inglis grew up near the coastal community of Hilton Head Island. His hometown of Bluffton is across the state and political worlds away from the right-leaning Fourth District that he will represent until the end of the month.
While he’s philosophical about his June primary defeat, he’s aware his constituents were less than enthused about energy innovation when the economy was tanking.
And though he maintains a high rating from the American Conservative Union, Inglis knows he ruffled Republican feathers by supporting the Troubled Asset Relief Program that bailed out financial institutions, opposing the Iraq War troop surge of 2007 and calling out fellow Palmetto State Rep. Joe Wilson for his lack of decorum during President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress in 2009.
“Maybe I’m the eternal optimist but I believe that at some point we’re going to realize that anger isn’t a governing philosophy,” Inglis said about the calm that Congress needs to regain before tackling substantive issues such as climate change. “You can tear down with anger but only build with love.”
Inglis insists that change of this magnitude requires cooperation from both parties. In response to the suggestion that he has the fervor and background to finesse such bipartisanship by serving as a sort of climate ambassador in Congress he answered: “I’d love to do that.”
While Inglis wants Flake to lead the carbon tax charge in the House, spokeswoman Genevieve Frye Rozansky told SolveClimate News that the Arizona Republican has not yet made a decision about reintroducing the measure.