Former Rep. Inglis eyes win in ‘war on coal’

By Hannah Hess | 08/05/2016 01:02 PM EDT

The so-called war on coal has "already worked," a former Republican congressman whose support for a carbon tax contributed to his 2010 defeat said yesterday, citing the role of natural gas in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"We’re not out to get coal," former South Carolina Rep. Bob Inglis told a Texas radio station.

"We’re not engaged in a war on coal, except that we do celebrate what natural gas has done for us," said Inglis, founder of a conservative and libertarian think tank for energy and climate change solutions.

Bob Inglis
Bob Inglis. | Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Inglis is a lifelong Republican who was chosen last year by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation for its Profile in Courage award, an honor he received for reversing his position on climate change after briefings with scientists and discussions with his children (Greenwire, April 13, 2015).

Inglis recalled to KERA a 2004 conversation with his son, who said, "Dad, I’ll vote for you, but you’re going to have to clean up your act on the environment."

He also talked about trips with colleagues on what is now the House Science, Space and Technology Committee to Antarctica and Australia, where Inglis said he witnessed firsthand the effects of global warming on the environment.

Meanwhile, Texas Rep. Lamar Smith (R), who now holds the gavel on the Science Committee, has carved out a reputation as one of the chief doubters of man-made climate change (Greenwire, July 27).

Inglis said scientists hurt attempts by GOP climate "realists" to bring fellow Republicans on board with efforts to cut carbon emissions and produce clean energy when they become "advocates." His group, republicEn, argues science is "never settled" but clearly indicates risk.

Bowing to environmental pressure, coal-fired generating utilities in Inglis’ home state are in the process of shutting down and switching to natural gas (Greenwire, Aug. 14, 2014). Rather than buying from coal-producing neighbors, power producers are "customers of Texas now," Inglis said.

"The result is, we’re breathing better in South Carolina," Inglis said.

Inglis attributed Texas natural gas producer George Mitchell with starting the war on coal by launching the shale boom that has revolutionized the industry. By making natural gas cheaper than coal, Mitchell effectively sent a price signal to the energy world.

"The price on carbon dioxide would be the means by which emissions go down because what happens is, and there’s broad consensus on this in the economics profession, you just put the price in on something, then the marketplace judges that product and it brings forth innovative alternatives and you have substitution away from the price signal," Inglis explained.

Inglis has devoted his post-Congress career to drumming up support for what he calls a "revenue-neutral, border-adjustable carbon tax," and chiding environmentalists on the left for making climate change a wedge issue (Greenwire, March 25).

"The price signal is effective, particularly if you’re like people on my side of the aisle, followers of Milton Friedman, you know, this is exactly how he said to deal with pollution is you tax it," Inglis said yesterday.

Listen to the full interview here.