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Climate Change for the GOP

It’s time for a conservative alternative to liberal alarmism.

Jul 8, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 41 • By ELI LEHRER
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A carbon tax should also be accompanied by removing the barriers to developing and exploiting new energy sources, particularly natural gas. While natural gas isn’t a long-term solution to every energy problem, unlocking more of it via hydraulic fracturing offers the simplest, cheapest, and most efficient way to reduce carbon emissions. Even the Keystone XL pipeline that Obama’s proposals seem crafted to kill has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing carbon-intensive international fuel shipment. Natural gas, the most promising replacement fuel, is already cheaper than much coal (the “dirtiest” widely used fuel), and encouraging its widespread use will result in continued greenhouse gas reductions.

Other efforts to encourage broader use of nuclear power, build transmission facilities that help unlock untapped hydroelectric potential in the Canadian north, and streamline regulations for all power projects deserve equally strong consideration. Even Obama’s recently announced plan has some worthy ideas to allow more alternative energy development on public land and squeeze more generation capacity out of existing U.S. dams. In the end, almost all new market-driven energy development will help to combat climate change: The most economically viable forms of power all emit less carbon than coal, and permitting their development will, on balance, result in fewer carbon emissions.

If the past is any indication, Republicans will be just as tempted as Democrats to endorse crony capitalist schemes to pick the energy technologies of the future, an area where all governments everywhere have a distinctly dismal record. The bipartisan disgrace of federal loan guarantees, clean energy generation tax credits, outright grants to private businesses, and “public-private” partnerships that created Solyndra and dozens of other spectacular “green” flameouts should be euthanized.

In the end, if both private insurance markets and overwhelming scientific majorities are proved wrong about global warming, a more lightly taxed, less regulated nation with more energy sources, more useful research, and less crony capitalism will still be better off by almost any measure.

President Obama’s various proposals to deal with climate change have deep flaws. But that doesn’t mean the problem they seek to address isn’t genuine. Conservatives should care about global warming. And, just as liberals have done for almost 20 years, they should use the issue as a way to promote policies they already favor.

Eli Lehrer is president of R Street.

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