It is no secret the modern GOP is hostile to the idea of climate change and green living policies. As a result, many voters tend to associate the Democratic Party with environmentalism and the GOP with business. In reality, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. However, Republicans have since Reagan been content to live with the inaccurate perception. After-all, in most elections few voters after the fact have identified the environment as key to their part.
Yet by allowing this perception to persist the GOP has essentially ceded the issue of the environment to the Left. Inevitably what the country gets is green policies and regulations that jack up energy costs, burden business and boost crony capitalism. It does not need to be this way. If the GOP could find a way to convince its climate change skeptics to embrace free-market policies the party would benefit in two ways. First, it would galvanize business to create new green technologies and thus widen the tax base and employ workers. Second, it would help the party shed the anti-environmental label.
Of course this is easier said than done. Republicans have been defined on the issue by what they have opposed than what they have proposed. A recent example would be 2009 and 2010 when Republicans in the Senate helped kill Cap and Trade. Cap and Trade is the definition of the liberal idea of fixing climate change. Enrich a few big companies, force the rest out of business, and allow energy costs to skyrocket as a result. Obama’s regulation heavy energy policies have set the stage for the GOP to take the lead on the issue and present an alternative.
Republicans plans should be much simpler. Republicans could propose tax breaks for not just wind and solar but also natural gas and fracking, not electric car companies like Tesla that get $450 million to make a car that gets 100 miles on a charge before it switches over to its gas engine. Republicans should also propose a carbon tax swap on businesses and individuals. This would be revenue neutral so the party could embrace it as innovative without raising taxes. The party could also benefit by providing individuals tax breaks for taking environmentally friendly actions.
The US does not need to go this road alone. Imposing a carbon tax on imports and lifting it on exports would provide an incentive for our major trading partners, like China and India, to enact a similar carbon price in their economies. Yet, under Democratic policies we seem bent on going it alone. This will/has led to businesses shipping jobs and money overseas in greater and greater numbers.
A Republican model to combat climate change and improve the environment should be largely predicated on personal responsibility and accountability. Government can certainly incentivize certain actions and create a climate for business to thrive but it should not be in the business of what it is now: enforcing compliance through heavy handed regulation. This has already led to less income and more pollution.
A GOP plan based on self-reliance, a revenue neutral tax swap and providing incentives for business and individuals to be environmentally friendly would be a winning plan. No longer would the GOP be defined by what it opposes but by what it proposes. And as a result the GOP would upset the perception of political stances on the issue and make many voters rethink their image of the GOP. For the party this can only be considered a boon.