For Inglis and his colleagues at RepublicEN, though, the cabinet picks causing other greens to lose sleep have been welcome additions.
“If Rex Tillerson led Exxon Mobil away from the disputation of climate science, perhaps he can lead the Administration away from disputation too,” Inglis says, and he takes Tillerson's support for a carbon tax as an encouraging sign. When it comes to climate action, Inglis adds, the “environmental left”—encompassing everyone from Al Gore to anti-fracking activists—have been steering the conversation about climate change for too long. It’s time to “let ExxonMobil drive,” he says.
Inglis might seem out of step with the climate movement’s increasingly anti-corporate bent, defined by efforts like fossil-fuel divestment and the battle against the Dakota Access pipeline. But members of the eco-right see little contradiction between fossil-fuel companies’ bottom-lines and a low-carbon future.
Like other members of the eco-right, Inglis believes that efficient markets are the ultimate problem solver, and he has a general skepticism about all but the most basic of regulations. “The essence of [the eco-right] is all about internalizing negative externalities,” Inglis says, referencing the hidden expenses of carbon’s seepage into the atmosphere. He says that polluters are “socializing their soot and climate costs.” By making them pay and stripping out all energy subsidies, the thinking goes, firms will shift their business models accordingly, weeding out wasteful fuels, making the Paris Agreement and Obama’s Clean Power Plan superfluous.
“Our view of the Clean Power Plan is that it’s precisely the worst way to deal with climate change,” Inglis explains. UN agreements and regulatory pushes, Inglis argues, represent the kind of policies which keep conservatives out of the conversation on climate, because they are both too complicated and too confrontational. “I think the path in is mostly through the business community, where unlikely partners could really step forward and say, ‘There’s a free enterprise solution to this. Don’t give us regulations. Don’t try to tell us how to run our business. Just internalize the negative externality and we will deal with it,’” he says.
The holy grail of Inglis’s brand of eco-conservatism is a “revenue-neutral, border-adjustable” carbon tax. This kind of pricing mechanism offers a more elegant solution to the eco-right than the patchwork of regulations involved in Obama’s landmark climate rule, wherein each state arrives at its own plan.
Greens across the political spectrum have long backed versions of a carbon tax as part of a broader slate of emissions-cutting policies, some proposals for which would see dividends given out directly to taxpayers or put toward investments in clean energy. What’s unique about the eco-right position on the tax is their view that it should act as the centerpiece of a climate plan, as opposed to one component among many market-based and regulatory measures. In contrast, when Bernie Sanders and his “environmental left” ilk advocate for pricing carbon, they tend also to favor putting hard limits on polluters’ ability to spit greenhouse gases into the air.