GOP Has Huge Opportunity on Climate Change

GOP Has Huge Opportunity on Climate Change
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We’re in the clear from the midterm elections and now have a snapshot at what next year’s Congress will look like. Conservatives scored big gains this week, and now have big opportunities ahead to pass real, meaningful, reform.

Republicans should seize this moment, specifically in working for bipartisan energy and climate change legislation. If not, the GOP may be rendered irrelevant come the 2016 Presidential race, and potentially will be remembered simply as the party of “no” and obstruction.

House and Senate Republicans appear poised to begin 2015 and the 114th Congress by passing legislation aimed at giving President Obama the difficult choice of making tough decisions on a litany of bills that died during Senator Harry Reid’s control of the Senate.

The Keystone pipeline will be front and center, garnering the political and news headlines with everyone in Washington asking, “will he or won’t he?” We’ve been left to wonder up until now – but the rubber will likely meet the road sooner than later on the Alberta-to-Texas oil pipeline.

Increasing natural gas exports to our European friends and allies in Ukraine is another no-brainer. Led by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Representative Cory Gardner (R-CO), Hill Republicans would tee up a major opportunity for the President to take a hack at rival Vladimir Putin, undercutting his energy bullying and ending the “hostage” standoff between the Russian dictator and Ukraine.

In addition to addressing these no-brainers, it’s also time to get serious and tackle even tougher challenges like solving our nation’s climate change challenge, while providing leadership for the rest of the world. Republicans can be the center and catalyst for change and reform worldwide.

We know that many of our conservative friends in Congress fully understand, and privately admit, that human activity is causing climate change. We know there are many conservatives on the Hill who aren’t shy about stating scientific facts. We also know there are leaders like Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), who are working to bridge the gaps and pass a bipartisan energy-efficiency plan.

Defunding the EPA isn't a climate strategy, it's a political tactic, much like the “I’m not a scientist” tactic. It is a placeholder statement that doesn't offer direction or strategy. And, it’s not worth wasting hard-earned taxpayer dollars, by tying up the legislative calendar in Washington, debating bills that will simply be subject to increased litigation and junk lawsuits. Especially when there is a clear path forward.

Polling by George Mason University’s Ed Maibach and the Center for Climate Change Communication and Yale University continues to show a majority of Republicans acknowledge climate change is real (52%), while only one-third agree with the party’s position on the issue (35%).

Climate change is also resonating with key demographics of voters including Hispanics, African Americans and millennials (ages 18-30) who are called the “Rising American Electorate.” These groups comprised 48% of 2012 voters and new polling released late last week by GMU/Yale shows they are more likely to vote for candidates who strongly support taking action to address climate change by a wide 4-to-1 margin. Almost two-thirds of Hispanics (65%) indicated they’re more likely to support these candidates than oppose them (7%). A majority of millennials (44% to 17%) also favor pro-climate candidates, according to the data.

It’s clear the ground is fertile for conservatives to step forward with constituents craving climate solutions. 

Congressional approval ratings persist at records lows because people are sick of gridlock. They’re tired of the partisanship. They want solutions. Here’s a solution on climate change that can and will work: a revenue neutral carbon tax.

It’s a free-enterprise solution built around bedrock conservatism that would end subsidies for oil and gas, solar and wind as well as shrink the size and scope of the federal government, including the EPA. It would provide a corresponding tax cut on income that incentivizes innovation and provides a level playing field that would make capitalists salivate.

And, I’ll throw a cherry on top. It would make the revenue-neutral “tax swap” border-adjustable, imposing the tax imports and lifting it on exports. It would bring China and India into compliance with both countries remitting taxes to Washington until they got on board with a carbon tax of their own. It would also indirectly prevent the off-shoring of jobs abroad.

With a Republican controlled Senate, tax reform is suddenly back on the table. If enough Democrats join the Majority, it would end a filibuster to move revenue-neutral tax reform legislation and send it to the President’s desk.

If the Left is serious about the environment, let’s give the President another tough choice to make. In the process, conservatives can lead the way to cleaner and healthier air that we’re indirectly paying for thru increased health care costs.

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