How Conservatives Could Save the Environment and Grow the Economy

Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) joins then-Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and members of the House Budget Committee in 2013. Could future GOP budget proposals include clean energy?

By Katie McBeth

It’s something we can expect every four or eight years. When the White House switches from Republican to Democrat, or vise-versa, it happens.

Policies are changed; reversed; abolished.

It often results in outcry from the opposing side, but it should be expected. The opposing platforms stand on opposite sides of almost every issue. Bipartisan support is becoming rarer and rarer in the modern age.

However, after a solid eight years of Barack Obama’s push for green energy and job growth, the new administration’s attempts to reverse the emphasis could bring significant damage to our current economy.

Green energy is blossoming all around the world. Even if government feelings on sustainability shift, it is still projected to grow over the next decade, and businesses everywhere are embracing the potential to “go green.” It is the new fuel, and jumping ship on the movement now could put the American economy in the path to failure. Not only this, but halting the growth of this industry could also prevent significant job growth and an economic advantage in the global market.

As Donald Trump’s administration ramps up on pipeline production and promises to increase jobs within the U.S., they could find rare bipartisan support through the recent proposal of a measure known as the Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends.

Switching the trajectory

As Trump prepared to enter the White House, his tower in New York saw an increasing number of visits from foreign CEOs and national businesses. As a businessman, much of Trump’s campaign banked on the promises of job growth and the “forgotten middle-class worker.” In fact, much of his support came from folks in the middle of the U.S. who sincerely believed Trump could bring back their coal-mining or factory jobs.

Yet, visit after visit from international businessmen showed a serious lack of consideration for this particular group of people.

Alibaba’s CEO, Jack Ma of China, met with the then-president-elect to discuss opening a branch of the company’s successful marketplace in America. However, this would only result in customer service jobs or freelance artists having a new platform to sell their wares.

Softbank CEO, Masayoshi Son of Japan, saw an instant rise in profits after his meeting with Trump, which promised an expansion of the business into America as well. Yet this would only provide jobs within retail (Softbank is a cell phone company) and more customer service call centers.

These are only a handful of examples within the weeks preceding Trump’s inauguration. His meetings spurred hope, with promises of thousands of jobs opening on U.S. soil, but the promises were empty when considering the industries they occupied.

Retail and customer service positions within massive corporations rarely benefit the worker but always benefit the millionaire owners, often adding to the increase in wage disparity in the United States. Positions may be created, but hours and wages will remain low, and workers will suffer. So will our credibility within the global marketplace. In truth, there appears to be very little thought for the needs of the people who overwhelmingly voted for Trump.

However, if Trump and his team were to take on climate change, he could genuinely help those people who banked on his election win. His team would need to make a dramatic shift in their stance on climate change and green energy. This could be hard to imagine, as he’s not one to admit fault or failure, but it could happen — and it could prove to be highly successful among his fans and his opponents.

Conservative conservation

On Feb. 8, the Climate Leadership Council met to discuss the latest proposals and accomplishments of the past year. One stand-out moment was the proposal of the Conservative Case for Climate Dividends, which was first introduced to the public through a piece in the New York Times.

The proposal — co-authored by eight men, five of whom are renowned veteran Republican leaders — lays out a detailed plan that promises domestic job growth and competitive international sanctions that all promote green energy and reducing carbon emissions. The plan stands on four pillars that — if followed according to plan — will please everyone.

“These four pillars, combined, invite novel coalitions. Environmentalists should like the long-overdue commitment to carbon pricing. Growth advocates should embrace the reduced regulation and increased policy certainty, which would encourage long-term investments, especially in clean technologies. Libertarians should applaud a plan premised on getting the incentives right and government out of the way. Populists should welcome the distributive impact.” (NY Times, 2017)

It’s a rare moment that the Trump administration and the Republican party is faced with: Go with the tide and continue the push for jobs that promote climate conservation, or ignore the measure and potentially create an even larger hole in the ozone layer while low-income and middle-class workers continue to fight over meager wages.

But there are significant reasons (beyond the obvious global benefit) for considering this new measure. For one, the global marketplace will be forced to listen to our demands, something that is sure to allure the negotiator within Trump.

But another, potentially more promising angle for Republicans is the support they would receive from middle-class workers. Jobs within the coal-mining and oil industry are dying. Clean power is already making a positive impact on the environment and providing ample career opportunities. Promoting construction and maintenance jobs for green energy will prove to be more in-line with the experience this group of people have. Fitting a coal miner into a retail position is unrealistic. Fitting a coal miner into a position that builds solar panels is more pragmatic.

This move will build real jobs that offer real competitive salaries and benefits. Agreeing to this new action will not just appeal to others on the political spectrum, but it also will win Republican votes from low- to middle-income workers for years to come. Isn’t that their whole objective as a political party?

Time will tell if this new proposal will make waves within Congress. Although it is unlikely that they will acknowledge the potential lined out in the Conservative Case, it is possible that increased pressure from constituents will force their hand.

As three of the proposal’s authors wrote in their op/ed in the New York Times: “On-again-off-again regulation is a poor way to protect the environment. And by creating needless uncertainty for businesses that are planning long-term capital investments, it is also a poor way to promote robust economic growth.”

Whether they like it or not, the world is changing in favor of green energy. Republicans can either get on board and create some real potential for growth, or they can continue to fight against the flow and hurt themselves in the process.

Image credit: Flickr/Speaker John Boehner

Katie McBeth is a researcher hailing from Boise, ID. She spends her free time reading teen novels and being the mother of three cats and a dog named Toby. You can follow her animal and writing adventures on Instagram or Twitter: @ktmcbeth.

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