The right response to Obama’s climate push

The R Street Institute, which split from the Heartland Institute after the billboard fiasco, has released a response to Obama’s renewed commitment to tackle climate change. Unsurprisingly, given R Street’s desire for small government, they aren’t happy about the use of a regulatory approach to reduce GHG emissions. Instead they call for conservatives to begin to constructively engage in the debate over climate policy:

The political right has been largely absent from the important debate over the appropriate policy response to climate change,… President Obama’s turn away from markets and into unilateral executive action should prompt a course correction from conservatives.

Regardless of one’s views on climate change, the simple reality is that federal policy is going to address the matter… That can happen through ill-advised regulations, like those proposed by the president today, or it can happen through a vibrant market with clear price signals attached to all fuels. Conservatives should seize the opportunity to once again emphasize the superiority of free markets over central planning.

Also unsurprisingly they recommend a revenue neutral carbon tax:

Reducing carbon emissions doesn’t need to entail bigger government and a damaged economy… A revenue-neutral carbon tax coupled with regulatory reform could achieve the same goal the president seeks to address without expanding government or contracting economic opportunity.

A price signal operating in an open and free market would encourage a transition to less carbon-intensive energy sources, while a clean tax swap and streamlined regulatory regime would ensure that government doesn’t grow larger and more powerful. When combined with some of the good ideas from Obama’s speech, like greater reliance on clean, cheap hydro-power and increased energy development on public lands such a structure would constitute a substantive and authentically conservative alternative that has been lacking in recent years.

Ultimately I have to agree with the R Street Institute. Using regulations like the clean air act, which was never designed to tackle a problem as complex as climate change, strikes me as a very poor way of reducing emissions. Of course given the outright climate of denial of congressional Republicans I don’t see another option for Obama.

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