In The Republican Reversal, we write: "In the 1980s, as conservatives gravitated toward the Republican Party and set in motion what would become the Republican reversal, they gave new life to an old theme in American history: the nation’s freedom depended on aggressively developing its abundant, God-given natural resources, not exercising conservation and restraint. Such a vision of abundance was a potent tonic for the emerging coalition that helped propel the Republican Party’s conservative ascendancy in the last quarter of the twentieth century."
During the Obama administration's second term, the federal government reduced offerings of public lands for oil and gas leasing and it began to tighten regulations on fossil fuel development as it set the stage for a transition toward a clean energy economy. In contrast, the Trump administration has given new life to western visions of abundance. In the past two years, it has moved swiftly to open up the public lands for resource development, mostly for oil and gas development.
In an October 27 article, Eric Lipton and Hiroko Tabuchi of The New York Times detail the Trump administration's campaign to throw open the public lands to oil and gas developers. At every step of the process, the Trump administration has weakened permitting requirements and provisions for environmental and public review in an effort to expedite leasing.
As Lipton and Tabuchi explain, the push for oil and gas on public lands is working: the administration has more than doubled the amount land available for leasing and onshore oil production on federal lands is on track to outpace any other year on record in 2018. But the costs will be significant: flaring natural gas is worsening local air pollution, the oil and gas industry uses large amounts of water also needed for ranching and agriculture, and rapid development poses threats for vulnerable species such as the sage grouse. Click the graph below to read their coverage.
In September 2018, Chris Solomon interviewed us about The Republican Reversal for Outside Online. Read the interview at the link below.
Author: James Morton Turner
On July 19, 2018, the House passed an anti-carbon tax resolution. Considering the party’s position on climate change and its opposition to taxes, that came as little surprise. Since 2013, conservative interest groups such as the Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity, had urged Republicans to sign a “No Climate Tax” pledge.
What has been more surprising have been several Republican-led initiatives in support of a carbon tax.
In February 2017, old-guard Republicans, including former Secretary of State George P. Shultz (Reagan administration), Secretary of the Treasurer James Baker (Reagan administration) and Henry Paulson (George W. Bush administration), called for tax and dividend approach to carbon dioxide regulation where carbon is taxed, but the revenue is rebated back to businesses and citizens.
In June 2018, a newly formed political action committee, Americans for Carbon Dividends, co-chaired by two former U.S. senators with strong ties to the oil and gas industry began laying the groundwork for a campaign in support of tax and dividend carbon legislation, in exchange for rolling back other energy and environmental regulations.
On July 23, 2018, Representative Carlos Cubelo (R-Florida) introduced a carbon tax, the revenues of which would be used to support infrastructure improvement.
As we explain in our book, The Republican Reversal, moderate Republicans championing market-based strategies have played a pivotal role in key moments of American environmental policy, including addressing acid rain through the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990. These events suggest that some Republicans recognize the need to forge a strategy on climate change, both to address an urgent problem and to strengthen the party’s political relevancy with younger voters.
But those gains should not come at the expense of giving up other protections for the environment and human health and protecting polluters from climate change liability, as Lee Wasserman and David Kaiser have argued. If such legislation is ever to gain momentum, however, some regulatory relief will likely be necessary to oil the gears of compromise.