USA Today Op-Ed: Forget the Green New Deal. We need climate solutions from free-market moderates.
John Kasich authored the following op-ed in USA Today.
There’s a lot of talk these days about the Green New Deal, a progressive Democratic response to the challenge of climate change. While it is intended to improve our environment, many Republicans and even some Democrats fear that it would stifle economic growth and kill jobs, set off a massive redistribution of wealth, and dangerously centralize federal government power.
But for all those problems, the Green New Deal is serving an important purpose by provoking a more vigorous level of public debate. We’ve finally reached a tipping point. Scientists, business leaders, 13 federal government agencies — including the Defense Department — and most of our allies around the world are convinced that climate change is happening and that strong, concerted actions are needed to minimize its effects.
Not all our political leaders have come on board with that consensus, but denial is no longer enough. The time has come for people who understand the need to be good stewards of our economy as well as our environment to put forward a responsible program.
I am convinced that conservatives and moderates, including many Democrats, can agree on a commonsense set of policies. They would be based on responsible economic principles of free-market capitalism and personal choice, not coercion. They would actually reduce regulation and lighten the heavy hand of government, while stimulating job growth and the economy, encouraging innovation, benefiting working-class Americans and — most important — protecting and improving the environment we share with the world.
Best of all, basic components of a responsible plan have already been test-driven by other nations and some U.S. states, and shown to work. In my own state of Ohio, for example, we reduced carbon emissions by about 30 percent from 2005 to 2014, encouraged aggressive efforts to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations, held off pressure to eliminate or soften strong renewable-energy standards, and built a strong regulatory structure to incentivize natural gasdevelopment. Our approach was balanced, reasonable and nondisruptive, and focused on protecting public health and the environment. And because of that, it’s working.
Less radical, intrusive approaches work
That’s just one example of a national climate change response that could win support from elected leaders with a broad range of political convictions. They can start with a carbon tax or a cap and trade program, which is a market-based trading system to incentivize carbon reduction. These approaches have already shown they can work.
Over the past 20 years, a cap and trade in the eastern USA has dramatically reduced sulfurous power-plant emissions that cause acid rain. Today, California and some of Canada’s provinces have agreed to apply a cooperative cap and trade approach to controlling greenhouse gasses. These and similar initiatives are making a difference, but we need to do more to make significant progress against climate change.
We also need to continue research supporting Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, the automotive fuel-efficiency requirements that have significantly reduced greenhouse gas pollution in recent years. We should not eliminate or weaken these mandates. CAFE requirements need to stay.
It’s also important to continue subsidies for electric vehicles, clean-energy transportation that might not exist if fuel-efficiency mandates hadn’t spurred innovators to explore alternatives. Related to that, we need more research in battery technology, and not just for electric vehicles. Once we can significantly extend battery life for a wide range of applications, we can more efficiently use and distribute renewable wind and solar energy, storing it for use whenever and wherever it’s needed.
Get India and China to reduce emissions
It’s clear that the federal government can't do all of this, nor should it. But Congress needs to stop dawdling, set priorities, back up those priorities with bipartisan proposals, and stand up to special interests trying to hang on to white-elephant programs whether they work any longer or not. There are important areas where direct federal action is essential, including investments in clean-energy production, carbon harvesting and sequestration, methane reduction and battery technology.
And by “invest,” I mean spend a lot of money, not a measly few pennies, on the research and innovation that can make a giant difference in the lives of our people. Strategic investments are needed in technologies that will drive advances in energy derived from renewables — solar and wind — as well as natural gas, a resource we have in abundance. And don’t dismiss nuclear energy, using small-scale modular technologies now being developed.
All our work will be wasted if we can’t change the terrible environmental damage being done in China and India. The world’s two most populous nations are also the two most intent on pumping more and more carbon into the environment with their continued construction of coal-fired power plants. Here, too, Washington must play a crucial role by wielding America’s formidable economic and strategic powers of persuasion. That means taking a leadership role in the international climate conversation.
The United States has no business withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, which the president has threatened. If that international accord is as flawed as the White House insists, we should work to fix it. The American people, our industries, our economic and strategic interests — all need to be at the table. The United States must lead with the accord, not abandon it. There’s too much at stake.
The Green New Deal might not be the answer. But it’s asking the right question. It’s time for free-market moderates on both sides of the aisle to come up with answers of their own.
Read the original op-ed here.