Meet GOP Carbon Tax Advocate Bob Inglis

The Hon. Robert Inglis

There is a hotbed of carbon tax advocacy at George Mason University, led by a former GOP congressman sent packing by South Carolina voters because he’s ready to tax them into loving solar and wind. 

Robert Inglis was part of the carbon regulation panel discussion Friday at the National Regulatory Conference in Williamsburg, talking about the version of a national carbon tax he’s advocating through the Energy and Enterprise Initiative, identified as an affiliate of GMU where he teaches.  The main website is here.

That proposal is quite different than the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative currently on the front burner in Virginia.  This idea would be nationwide, across more sectors of the economy than just power generation, and “border adjustable.”  That means it would also be imposed on imports unless the exporting country had a similar system.

Another key difference:  He wants a tax cut for families somewhere else to compensate for the cost increases due to the carbon tax, or some other way to return the money.  That is also missing from the RGGI proposal, since its advocates are still claiming it won’t cost ratepayers anything.

Inglis was making the statement we need to “internalize negative externalities” last week while somebody else was making the same argument on Bacon’s Rebellion.

Inglis’ presentation opened with an old clip of Professor Milton Friedman talking about how a tax would work to reduce just about any form of pollution.  The Energy and Enterprise proposal uses different language, but there isn’t much daylight between it and the CEO Climate Dialogue principles being released that same day.  Coincidence?  Sure, you can think so.

In reality, it is a fairly common thing for the business community to spot a parade and seek to take the front and lead it.  Bob Inglis didn’t make my list of signs at the conference that environmentalists have won, but his talk was another such sign.

After voting against many carbon limiting proposals, Inglis credits his conversion to trips he took as a congressman on an energy panel to Antarctica and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.   He put in the Raise Wages, Cut Carbon Act of 2009 and didn’t sit in Congress two years later.  Another Republican took him out.

Now he takes solace in these recent developments:  A Florida Republican in an ocean side district introducing the Green Real Deal Act, and Senator Bob Cornyn of Texas attending that CEO climate event and merely uttering the words climate change.  He cites at least in part simple political calculation, response to changing public attitudes.  Say what you will about the details, “Green New Deal” is an effective political slogan, Inglis said.

As he quaintly put it, quoting the late Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings, “there is not much education in the second kick of a mule.”  He thinks that first kick came in the 2018 Democratic takeover of the House.  He admitted that many Republicans also remain skeptical on one key point unrelated to the science: deep distrust that government will keep its word on returning carbon tax dollars in some form or spending them effectively.

If you go to his website, and he used much of it in his presentation at the conference, you find the Usual Rhetoric in support of climate change fears.  Worst to find in an academic context is the Appeal to Authority, an ancient and and shaky debating ploy.  It means absolutely nothing that somebody polled scientists on climate change or toothpaste preferences.  During the years many Americans were first addicted to cigarettes, doctors appeared in the ads.  (Using the Friedman clip was another appeal to authority.)

Then there is a cherry-picked CO2-over-the-millennia chart that carefully avoids earlier geologic periods of high CO2 on Earth and posits all the change now is due to us.  “As a species, we have never seen this before…”  Well, on this planet we’re the newbies and plenty of other species saw and survived higher CO2 at points before that chart he uses, none of which was due to us.

The first question always is, does it really matter if we (meaning the world) reduce CO2 and/or other known greenhouse gases?  If your answer is yes, of if your answer is merely a strong maybe, then it’s fair to go back to Friedman and his economic genius for ideas on diminishing emissions of the gas or gases.

A carbon tax or greenhouse gas tax can work to lower emissions and alter consumer behavior, but it must be 1) nationwide, 2) economy-wide, not aimed at one sector and 3) structured to put pressure on the rest of the world.  A cap and trade system is a useful mechanism to get from A to B.  These economic processes work and their impact is more even across the board.  The downside is more limited than with many other approaches being advocated.

Moral authority and virtue signaling are just for show, and a very expensive show at that when done solo. They may work when saving your immortal soul but moving the needle on a world’s atmospheric chemistry is a different endeavor. To quote Inglis again, perhaps in a context he’d reject:  “Smart is hard, dumb is easy.”

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31 responses to “Meet GOP Carbon Tax Advocate Bob Inglis

  1. This is a very dangerous idea and proposal. Once in the hands of ideologues, and it already is in their hands, this idea and proposal, once it’s law and regulation will get wildly out of control. It is the perfect storm vehicle for Cascading Memes, that send us all off on wild goose chases and witch hunts that plague our modern society linked in now by our 24/7 fake, over the top, false information age.

  2. Steve,
    I agree that a national carbon cap and trade approach is a great idea, but it is really too bad that Virginia won’t join RGGI that has been around for 10 more so years. Any step is pretty much a step in the right direction on climate change. If you sit back and study it to death, you’ll find yourself sitting in ocean water. It is a shame Northam did not push ahead and do the appropriate vetoes to get the state to join.
    Incidentally, here’s something I did in the WaPo on the topic.–before-its-too-late/2019/05/17/b5d91dda-759a-11e9-b7ae-390de4259661_story.html?utm_term=.e7d32569dd19

  3. re: ” The first question always is, does it really matter if we (meaning the world) reduce CO2 and/or other known greenhouse gases? If your answer is yes, of if your answer is merely a strong maybe, then it’s fair to go back to Friedman and his economic genius for ideas on diminishing emissions of the gas or gases.”

    and if you do not believe in GW then why does ANY of this matter much less comparing the pros and cons of different approaches and including all that nasty “virtue signaling” going on?

    Perhaps the first step in any commentary is to self-identify one’s self on the graph below?

    • “Global warming” is a meaningless concept. Asking people if they think “global warming” is happening is a meaningless exercise.

      No one disputes that temperatures have risen over the past 40 or so years. However, that tells us almost nothing. The first question is whether that rise is cyclical due to natural variation or is driven by increasing CO2 in the atmosphere. The second question, if one accepts the CO2-as-main-driver hypothesis, is how much temperatures will increase and how fast. The third question is how detrimental that temperature increase will be to the environment and to human societies. The fourth question is what do do about it.

      Changes in public perceptions are driven almost entirely by orthodoxy in (a) the media, and (b) K-12 and higher education. That’s not to say the orthodoxy is necessarily wrong. Sometimes orthodoxies are right. But I find no value whatsoever in citing public opinion in anything other than a political context. In politics, perception is a very important reality, whether the perception is justified or not.

      • simple question – do you believe in mankind-cause warming of the earth?

        If you do NOT – then WHY have any interest at all in the various options under consideration other than to oppose them all because
        you believe they are not needed?

  4. There is no doubt that mankind growth towards 10 Billion people is messing up the planet.

    One huge bad news/good news thing happening in the oceans (this year) is that ocean-going ships have in the past been allowed to spew countless megatons of SOx out their smoke stacks, over the oceans. Following 10+ years of joint industry preparations, as of 2020, ships will be burning low sulfur diesel and/or scrubbing the SOx or using nat gas in some cases as fuel.

    To my sense of environmental stewardship, tunnel vision focus on just villifying USA or Virginia CO2 is not necessarily going to solve any problems. At the same time, overall conservation of natural resources and reducing harmful emissions is good policy.

    What is somewhat a judgement call is how harmful is additional CO2 to an already CO2 enriched planet? and how fast it has to be fixed if it is a serious problem for mankind?

    • Thank you TBill. Now we are beginning to make some sense. And ask some sensible questions. Imagine the power such a global Carbon regime would place in the hands of a very few elite, the very same folks who have screwed up most everything they have touched to date. What will they decide to regulate now and next? How will they regulate it, and whatever they add to “it”? Who will they regulate? Who won’t they regulate? Why should we trust them? Where is there any evidence that they are responsible, or know what they are doing? Al Gore won a Nobel, you trust him? How about someone or group of professors you know nothing about, except most always they are proven wrong and foolish, most always both. And that others will follow them? What others will follow these self appointed gods, like the guy grins at us from atop this post?

      Here the solution is far more dangerous and certain than the threat it will so surely fail to address properly.

    • well again – if you do not believe it is a problem and that it is basically a false narrative – then why worry about the various options to deal with it other than oppose them all on the same basis?

  5. Easy, Larry – no question the data indicates it is happening. That has nothing to do with 1) why, 2) how and how fast, 3) what can we do about it, 4) will it really hurt anything? The poll also reflects the successful media drumbeat of one-sided information for a couple of decades now. NBC national news opens with a weather story just about every day right now, tornadoes, floods, and it no longer needs to condition the audience to think “Ah! Global Warming!” It just reinforces that reflex over and over….When NBC bought the Weather Channel and its national news because all-climate-all-the-time, it was no accident.

    • Gee, Steve, I said almost exactly the same thing in response to an earlier post. Good thinking, man!

    • Steve – it’s not ONE POLL from one organization. It’s dozens of Polls from a diverse group of pollsters – unless you are want to accuse them all of some kind of a conspiracy to mislead those they poll so all the answers are the same.

      When you say “media drumbeat”, are you saying that PEW, Gallup and others are all colluding to do mislead people on the issues?

      If that’s your ‘answer’, then, once again, why worry about all the groups and various options in response to it – if basically it’s all based on media lies and misinformation?

      why not just flat out oppose any response at all on the basis that it’s a media conspiracy to fool people and none of the poll responses are legitimate?

  6. And where is the part that stops any new construction in floodplains? Where is the part that stops any new reconstruction (as opposed to maintenance and repairs) in floodplains? Where is the part that imposes new taxes on structure owners located in floodplains? Without this, a carbon tax is a fraud.

    And here’s a piece on inconsistencies. Global Warming: It Can Do Anything! Next on the list, Climate change causes both constipation and diarrhea.

    The entire debate is a fraud because it does not require facts and the testing of claims. We can be in the midst of rising seas due to higher temperatures while still having a dishonest debate.

  7. Two Democrats in Congress, Senator Van Hollen (D, MD) and my congressman, Representative Don Beyer (D, VA, 8th district) have again introduced legislation based on this idea. At least the Dems are attempting to do something rather than just talk about it.

    • And you can be sure that Van Hollen’s proposal, as flawed and dangerous as it is for all of us, will make him, and his political party’s financial supporters, huge and unprecedented amounts of monies taken out of taxpayers pockets, doing far more harm than good. This is the classic maneuver of our deeply corrupt pay to play system of oligarchic rule run by cabals of getting rich politicians making bundles of money, and cynical political parties.

      • Meanwhile, people out in the real world are making great progress reducing carbons in the United States, far beyond reductions in any other nations, while they benefit the public instead of ripping them off to line their own pockets, as do crony capitalists and their political enablers, many politicians, academia, non-profits (for profit), and other special interests.

        • Nobody on this blog rails more against corruption in government, especially our state government, than me. It’s not even close. I think you are quite right that our current political class will largely use any serious sustainable energy reforms to line the pockets of themselves and their friends. Unfortunately, the world will keep getting warmer as we all moan and groan about the corruption of our existing political class.

          There is only one answer ….

          Throw the bums out. This November, vote against every incumbent unless that incumbent has taken overt action to reduce corruption in Virginia. By my count, there are 14 incumbents who qualify for reelection …

          1. The 13 House of Delegates members who were elected in 2017 after taking “no Dominion money” pledges and …

          2. Sen Chap Petersen who introduced legislation to make political contributions from Dominion illegal

          That’s it … 14 out of 140. 126 need to go. I don’t care what their other policies might be. Getting the firehose of money coming from special interests out of Virginia politics trumps every other issue.

          It’s time for a blood letting at the statehouse. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

    • So what do Senator Van Hollen and Representative Beyer propose to do about all the structures in floodplains? A bailout from everyone else?

  8. Why would we want to reduce carbon at all if it’s based on a hoax?

    it makes no sense to me if someone says they believe most of the GW stuff is false, lies, misinformation and whatever is happening is “natural” and “cycle”, etc?

    If that’s how one feels – then any/all “responses” to it have to be illegitimate , right?

  9. The expected value of perfect information is the price one would pay in order to gain access to perfect information. Sometimes access to perfect information is possible, sometimes not. However, trying to gain access to perfect information almost always results in delay. The risk adjusted cost of delay is probabilistic calculation of the cost of inaction over a specified period of time.

    A farmer might want to try to access perfect information in oder to decide whether to plant soybeans or corn in a given season. If the farmer waits until late Fall while he collects, curates and analyzes data in his quest for perfect information he will have missed the opportunity for any economic gain that season.

    Steve writes about ” … 1) why, 2) how and how fast, 3) what can we do about it, 4) will it really hurt anything?” These are all questions on the path of seeking perfect information. I fully acknowledge that having answers to these questions would be of immense value. However, the delay in developing those answers would be significant. I can easily imagine studying those question for the next 10 – 20 years in order to develop comprehensive answers. What would be the cost of that delay?

    New York City has a plan to spend $10 billion to protect Manhattan from rising sea levels. The lower Manhattan resiliency project found that …

    “The study found that by 2050, 37 percent of properties in Lower Manhattan will be at risk from storm surge. By 2100, with over six feet of projected sea level rise, almost 50 percent of properties will be at risk from storm surge, and 20 percent of Lower Manhattan’s streets will be exposed to daily tidal inundation.”

    In the fifty years between 2050 and 2100 we go from 37% of properties being at risk from storm surge to 20% being inundated daily – in other words, absent heroic infrastructure actions, being rendered useless. The current real estate value of Manhattan is $3 trillion. 20% of $3 trillion is $600 billion.

    Now comes an act of faith – how much can we do to stop the sea level rise expected by 2100? Here again we face the choice between the expected value of perfect information and risk adjusted cost of delay. Since I’m more concerned about the latter – I’ll hazard a guess that we can prevent 1/2 of the rise in sea level if we act now rather than spending the next 10 – 20 years in search of something closer to expected information. That’s $300 billion in Manhattan alone.

    1.7 million people live in Manhattan. In 2010, 123.3 million people, or 39 percent of the America’s population lived in counties directly on the shoreline (not including Alaska). What percentage of those people living in coastal counties will be hurt by unchecked sea level rises? 20%? That’s 24.6 million people. We saved $300 billion through rapid action on global warming in Manhattan or $176,470 per person. I think that’s $42 trillion when applied to the 24.6 million people living in coastal counties assumed to be subject to damage from rising sea levels.

    Obviously, these numbers are SWAGs (silly wild ass guesses). However, I invite anybody to use different numbers to calculate the monetary damage of rising sea levels. Given that 40% of the world’s population lives within 100 km of the sea … you’re going to get a very big number. Go ahead … give it a try.

    Can we slow the rise of sea levels by acting now? Nobody really knows but my suspicion is “yes”. Sustainable energy generation accompanied by hydro-electric pumped storage facilities would be a hell of a start. Trading gas based autos for electric cars using that sustainable / pumped storage approach would be another big step. Taxing the externalities of GHG emissions by source of power would raise the price of foods like beef a lot more than foods like chicken. Higher prices on beef would move a lot of dinners to poultry.

    All of these changes would be painful. All would be expensive. But against my guesstimate of $42 trillion in damages from rising sea levels on real estate in America over the next 81 years …. really?

    • I don’t think people are looking for perfect information. But how about trying to get rid of the fraud in the discussion? Should we make policy decisions that will cost everyone a lot of money based on the claims of the climate scientists that global warming causes every weather event? Should we presume that every bit of data and projections made by climate scientists are true, honest and complete when we have evidence of scientific fraud in virtually every branch of science? When federal agencies have offices to investigate science fraud but not climate science fraud?

      Should we raise the cost of living for ordinary working people to protect $2 million beach homes built on barrier islands? Should we pay more when most of the Financial District in San Francisco is built on pilings and landfill? Should we raise people’s grocery bills when we have people using private jets to go to global warming conferences? Should we raise people’s utility bills when we effectively have open borders bringing in more people to emit GHG?

      Washington, D.C. is a sewer of filthy rent seekers and their agents.

      • TMT’s comments immediately above are very powerful. His comment’s, if they were followed, would actually solve climate change risk, if any. But climate pushers will not take those climate risk abatement actions, because it will cost them real money while it deprives them of their own personal privileges, and cost everyone else nothing. Instead, they want others less fortunate to paid all the costs, while they the climate pushers keep all their privileges and simultaneously gain evermore power and financial benefits from Climate Change. Image, if Al Gore really believed his own words, he’d be traveling by train, scrambling for nukes, and darkening lights at his many homes.

  10. re: perfect information.

    interesting concept –

    The real world though seldom provides “perfect information” and especially so when it comes to global warming or sea level rise, which is in itself a bit of a conundrum because some folks believe that it is a direct consequence of GW and others who are “skeptics” don’t like that connection so they just seem to accept it as “real” and inevitable – more so than GW … and of course they are not getting that perfect info for sea level rise either- it’s just an estimate from the same scientific folk who opine on GW.

    But once again – if you are a skeptic and believe that GW is a hoax perpetrated by corrupt evil-doers pretending to be scientists – why would you care one whit what might be done about it whether it’s RGGI or a carbon tax or cap/trade, etc.. since GW is a hoax then all of these “options” are what? possible responses to a hoax?

  11. To be honest, I am NOT totally sure we should tax carbon. If we subsidize the heck out of nuclear and renewables, ban further use of fossil fuels for energy generation, that’s all one hell of an anti-carbon attack already. But I know some major corporations say we should tax carbon, so I am going along. But I not sure their rationale.

    • Yes, precisely, we have plenty of tools that are far easier to control, and that do not give wide and unfettered latitude for abuse by self serving and uncontrollable elites, other tools that will effectively reduce carbons with far less harm to the bulk of the American people, just as you mentioned.

      Then, TBill, you go on to say”

      “But I know some major corporations say we should tax carbon, so I am going along. But I not sure their rationale.”

      I am sure that the carbon producing companies that endorse carbon taxes, such a BP, do so because they have found ways to game the system, and make money either way and both ways, coming and going, and coming and going again. That point was nicely illustrated here on BR by Arbar as it related to Dominion’s strategies to more than offset new carbon taxes with a variety of new non-carbon subsidies, as well as massive new construction caused the over duplication of infrastructure that will be demanded by fleets of new renewable generation.

      Plus, other corporation take their carbon tax stances purely for Public Relations campaigns, while they too, at the same time, game the system. These include 100% renewable power claims (Zero carbon), when there in fact is no such thing on this green earth, or anyone else’s green earth. Gas is key to renewable power. And Nuke carry the heaviest green load by far.

      • Correct the companies may be saying, lets tax carbon and not ban it. But the liberals are saying tax carbon, ban carbon, mandate renewables, give enormous incentives to renewables.

        • Yes, and John Q. Public, whether he be taxpayer, rate payer, and/or consumer, gets the shaft four ways to Sunday. The forth way he get the shaft comes when the Carbon Tax as run by the progressive cabal so twists the market out of shape in favor of 100% renewable generation, the entire US system of power generation fails altogether – it fails to effectively curb carbon and thus global warming, and it fails to generate reliable and reasonably priced electric energy in sufficient amounts to power the modern US economy. Hello China.

    • Big corporations only go so far in endorsing causes. I believe that many are concerned about changes in temperature and the impact on sea levels. But they won’t support anything that hits their bottom line hard. If demand for a product or service is inelastic, they are more likely to support a carbon tax or trading. But if demand is elastic and likely to fall or shift to competitors’ substitute produces or services, they are likely two-faced. Support in public but fight undercover. Or come up with laws and regulations that protect their revenue by shifting costs to the public. That’s exactly what Dominion is doing.

      And does anyone think that the financial services sector won’t find ways to develop a secondary market in tax credits or trading rights? And of course, they won’t be able to push prices higher that, in turn, will screw the average American.

      Once again, I’m not arguing about moving to renewable energy. Rather, I’ve observed that when public money is available, crooks and rent seekers are after it. It’s a shame that supposedly thinking people are blindly closing their eyes to what will be harmful impacts on many Americans in the name of ideological purity. If, on the other hand, we spent equal effort exposing the Climate Change charlatans, we could develop a workable and fair policy that moves from fossil fuel to other energy sources in a reasonable manner.

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