As a conservative businessman, let me first address the elephant in the room: the argument from the fossil fuel lobby and politicians that climate change is not real or caused by humans. The science, data, and evidence are no longer disputable. Climate scientists and governments around the world are virtually unanimous that it is not only real and man-made, but extremely urgent. It’s time for our shrinking Republican brand to finally embrace this reality and get on the right side of history.
What does this mean practically? It means we need to ‘transition’ from dirty coal and oil to clean solar and wind power as well as battery storage and electric cars as quickly as possible in the next 10 years. We can no longer pump billions of tons of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere, increase the greenhouse effect around our planet, and cause record temperatures every year. The resulting devastation from droughts, wildfires, storms, and hurricanes across our country and around the world is getting out of control. We need to mitigate these and other future costs and risks ASAP.
Think of it as an insurance policy. We take out insurance for our homes, cars, and many other things of value. It’s time we insure our most valuable asset — our planet— against increasingly clear and present dangers.
The good news is we have solved environmental problems like this in the past and can do it again. In fact, past Republican administrations passed laws and regulations in the 1970-1990 period to reduce pollution causing smog, acid rain, the ozone hole, and other environmental problems. Our air, land, and water are safer and healthier today as a result. It’s time for our generation to be just as committed and vigilant in protecting our children and future generations.
Now the really good news. This ‘transition’ is the greatest economic opportunity of the 21st century. Clean energy is already the fastest growing industry in the world and this growth will continue for year and decades. In fact, the U.S. and other countries are creating more jobs in solar and wind power than coal, oil, and natural gas. And more clean power is being put on the grid every year than dirty power. Imagine if the U.S. goes all-in and competes against China to become the world leader in these technologies of the future.
Another major reason to support clean energy is our national security. Reducing the global demand for oil and eventually natural gas by shifting to electric vehicles and heat pumps will lower their prices. This in turn will weaken Russia, Iran, and ISIS who depend on such commodities.
The critical question is, what is the simplest and fairest energy policy to fully leverage the emerging Clean Energy Revolution? My answer is to put a price on carbon and make it revenue neutral to appease big government critics. It’s time to make polluters pay for the damage they impose on our economy, security, health, and environment. Society at large should not have to bear these costs for them and pay high tax rates at the same time.
Countries that have not already done this would follow our lead and there would likely be a reset on energy prices, supply and demand, and investments going forward. But our strategic advantages of free market capitalism, research and innovation, and economic speed and scale would unleash a new era of American leadership and prosperity.
The sooner we put a price on carbon, the safer, healthier, and wealthier we will be.