As anyone following the issues of climate change and the environment knows, the political landscape is changing. What was once a topic dominated by the center-left has now been embraced by conservatives and Republicans alike. The most recent example was the launching just last month of the Conservative Climate Caucus.
Today, one of the Conservative Climate Caucus members, Congressman Frank Lucas, who represents Oklahoma’s 3rd Congressional District, sat down with C3’s co-founder John Hart on the Right Voices interview series to discuss climate change and the environment.
For Lucas, joining the Climate Caucus was driven by his first-hand experience farming.
“I come at this subject matter not just as a member of Congress, but as a farmer… weather patterns are changing. As a farmer, a rancher, I watch the rainfall very closely, watch the weather patterns, how much grass we produce, what kind of crops we can raise, when we can plant, and when we can harvest, and weather patterns are changing. Now, I think it’s important to acknowledge that weather patterns are changing because of global industrial activity.”
While changing weather patterns may seem challenging, Lucas believes that we “can’t just put [our] head in the sand. [We’ve] got to respond.”
What responses does Lucas have in mind?
“My view is, instead of using taxes and regulatory actions to exterminate certain segments of the economy that provide energy…our responsibility on the federal level is to invest in research programs that will create the next generation of energy or improve the efficiency or lower the carbon footprint of existing sources of energy. Then let the markets decide where to go.”
While many on the political left may argue that this approach doesn’t do enough, allowing markets forces to function well has made America the leader in absolute emissions reductions since 2000, according to the International Energy Agency.
To accelerate clean technology deployment, certain groups on both sides of the aisle have begun to advocate for a carbon tax. Internationally, carbon pricing has become a tool for policymakers, with the European Union recently announcing increasing its carbon tax and imposing new carbon tariffs.
To Lucas, a staunch believer in free-market economics, a carbon tax is a nonstarter:
“If you compare a carbon tax under the theory of a carrot and a stick, a carbon tax is a baseball bat—you bludgeon stuff with it. I can’t support that.”
Indeed, a carbon tax would ripple across the economy, impacting not only energy costs but the basic cost of living as well. As Congressman Lucas aptly puts it, a carbon tax is “a snake that can bite you in both the front and the back.”
As we watch climate and environmental issues take center stage in an increasingly progressive presidential administration, conservative hawks like Congressman Frank Lucas and others must be willing to buck unworkable, counter-productive, and economically damaging progressive policies. Through Lucas’ leadership, Congress can empower the private sector to produce technologies that lower emissions while increasing the planet’s health and our economy.
Watch the interview here.