The Weekend Wonk: Conservatives Debate Carbon Tax. Carbon Tax Wins.
June 15, 2013
This past week, a unique event occurred in DC that brought together a fairly large group of movement conservatives and libertarians to discuss the prospects and possibilities of a carbon tax. The event was sponsored by the R Street Institute, a new think tank on the block that not only believes in small government, and conservative economic solutions, but actual science as well.
Above, you can watch Part 1 of my 2010 interview with R Street founder Eli Lehrer, who left the famously science unfriendly Heartland Institute to found his own unique, and increasingly visible, shop. Part 2 when I get it loaded, tomorrow.
In regard to the debate, I heard thru the grapevine that Bob Inglis kicked major butt, I’m sure in a nice, folksy, low key way.
Do not know if there is video – but below, Inglis displays signature style.
Yesterday, I moderated a debate on the question: Resolved: Under no circumstances should conservatives support a tax on carbon emissions. The debate was organized by the R Street Institute and the Heartland Institute as a debate among free market friends. For the proposition were James Taylor from Heartland and David Kreutzer from the Heritage Foundation. Against the resolution were former Congressman Bob Inglis from the Energy and Enterprise Initiative and Andrew Moylan from R Street.
The audience consisted of perhaps 150 people. Looking over the list of the folks who RSVPed to the discussion most of the attendees could be fairly characterized as leaning conservative or libertarian.
The debate was spirited, but friendly. At the end of the discussion, we called for a division of the house and all participants agreed (with some surprise) that the majority was opposed to the resolution. In other words, a revenue neutral carbon tax could be acceptable to conservatives and libertarians.
Discussions around taxing carbon have increased among conservative groups in the past year, although that hasn’t carried over to Republican lawmakers, who oppose tax increases and generally look on climate change with disinterest.
But you wouldn’t have known the topic is considered lifeless in Congress by attending the event last night. Organizers planned for 150 people, but received about 270 requests to attend. The crowd didn’t reach that size, but the Globe Theater near Dupont Circle was nearly full.
Carbon tax events routinely draw big crowds, but Lehrer smiled as he guessed that the open bar also played a role.
“A year ago, there was no conversation on carbon tax,” he said.
The event exposed divisions within conservative thought groups over the effect that the policy might have on the economy, the environment and the political compass of the Republican Party.
Some believe that climate change is an issue akin to immigration and gay marriage at a time of changing demographics that disfavors a GOP brand that has lost two presidential elections while failing to expand its reach beyond a House majority.
John Weaver, who has been a political adviser to Republican presidential candidates such as former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and Arizona Sen. John McCain, said the debate is a sign that the GOP is a “party in transition.”
“There is a debate internally, broadly, about … whether you have to admit that [climate change] is real, which I believe it is,” Weaver said in an interview. “And secondly, are we as conservatives or center-right activists going to offer solutions about it, as opposed to just putting our head in the sand and pretending it doesn’t exist?”
Below, part of the Lehrer interview made it into this video on Sea Level rise, and the North Carolina flat earth caucus. Lehrer is at about 5:50 if you’re in a rush.
And here’s some video from Inglis’ organization, with an appearance by Reaganomics architect Art Laffer.