Former Rep. Bob Inglis On Trump Environmental Regulation Rollbacks
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
President Trump has famously called climate change a hoax. In his view, the Obama administration's climate change regulations do nothing but hurt the U.S. economy. Trump made that point yesterday, surrounded by coal miners, as he signed his executive order putting an end to Obama's Clean Power Plan.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion and to cancel job-killing regulations.
GREENE: And now let's hear a different voice - and given the rhetoric in Washington, maybe a surprising one. Bob Inglis is a conservative Republican and former congressman from South Carolina who says climate change is a very real threat. And he believes he lost his seat in Congress in part because of that position. And we have him on the line this morning.
Congressman, good morning.
BOB INGLIS: Good morning. Good to be with you.
GREENE: Well, thanks for coming on. So the president says he will bring coal jobs back with his executive order. Do you believe that?
INGLIS: No. I don't think it's possible. It's possible for him to repeal the Clean Power Plan. But it's not possible for him to repeal the price on natural gas. That's the war on coal. It wasn't what Barack Obama was doing.
GREENE: So are you suggesting that he's lying to the American public and voters by saying that he can bring these jobs back? I mean, he stood there yesterday with coal miners.
INGLIS: Yeah. I think those people are going to find out that it was a false promise. That there's - you can't bring those jobs back unless somehow you could stop the great production of natural gas, which I don't think he wants to do.
GREENE: Well, help me understand this - you believe that climate change is a very serious threat. It sounds like you took a lot of political risk in coming out and making that very clear. You were not that worried, though, to see the Clean Power Plan go away as President Trump is moving to do. Explain that for me.
INGLIS: Right. We've got much better opportunities to fix climate change than the Clean Power Plan. And something tells me Barack Obama might even agree with what I'm about to say, that if we could get a worldwide price on carbon dioxide through a carbon tax that in America is revenue-neutral - in other words, we cut taxes somewhere else an equal amount - and then apply that tax to imports, the result would be the world would follow our leadership. That would unleash the power of free enterprise to fix the problem of climate change.
GREENE: So you're saying that I as a consumer - if I am buying a good that has been imported and the making of that good has caused emissions, I would have to pay a tax on it. So the feeling would be consumers would not be happy about paying higher prices, and there would be this natural way to reduce emissions that you're talking about.
INGLIS: Right. It'd be - it's not an artificial addition. It's actually an attempt at quantifying the damages caused by those emissions and then attaching it to the products so that there's accountability, which is of course what we conservatives believe is really important - to have accountability in all things, including emissions.
GREENE: But if your approach here relies on establishing that there's a social cost when it comes to these emissions, isn't one of the challenges convincing many fellow Republicans that the notion of climate change is actually a real thing?
INGLIS: Well, I think it's mostly that they haven't heard a solution that they like yet. They heard a cap in trade, and that was hopelessly complicated. They heard Clean Power Plan; that's a regulatory, grow-government idea. But now what we at republicen.org live to show them is a very simple free enterprise idea of full accountability. Eliminate all the subsidies. Attach all the costs to all the fuels. And then on that level playing field, watch the new, better, cleaner fuels - the challenger fuels - beat the old, incumbent fuels that are dirty.
GREENE: You, as I understand it, Congressman, your kids helped convince you to believe that climate change is a real threat. Did you learn anything going through that process personally that might help other skeptics in the Republican Party and elsewhere sort of find a way to learn about this topic?
INGLIS: There's an opportunity here to work together. And that's what it took in my case, is my kids helping me to see that. In my case, it was their love that made it possible for me to make quite a change. But for other politicians that maybe don't have that, we hope that they can make, if not a 180-degrees switch, as I did, maybe a 90-degrees switch and just say - now you're showing me a solution that fits in with my values, my conservative values.
GREENE: That was former South Carolina Congressman Bob Inglis. He's executive director of republicen.org, an organization that promotes free enterprise solutions to climate change.
Thanks so much.
INGLIS: Great to be with you, David. Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.