Gingrich writes that Green Conservatives want the private sector to lead the change to energy independence and a healthier environment. I hope this is a tipping point for the green movement, where the Democrats and Republicans offer competing visions of a green America, instead of the denial and rejection that characterizes the pro-oil Bush administration.
The private sector can move more quickly and efficiently than government in developing and implementing functional solutions for significant problems. If Gingrich is sincere here, not just trying to win votes and sell books, then perhaps his influence will help conserve clean air and water and preserve what is left of wilderness.
The time has come to define a fundamentally different approach to a healthy environment and a healthy economy. The time has come for the development of "Green Conservatism" as an alternative to big bureaucracy and big litigation liberal environmentalism.
So what is Green Conservatism?
Green Conservatives favor clean air and clean water.
Green Conservatives understand biodiversity as a positive good.
Green Conservatives believe that economic growth and environmental health are compatible in both the developed and developing worlds.
Green Conservatives favor minimizing carbon loading in the atmosphere as a positive public value. And while we don’t buy into the doomsday scenarios currently being peddled by the left, we believe there is sufficient scientific evidence to tell us that carbon loading is occurring. But as to what we can and should do about it, there is still a lot to learn.
And lastly, Green Conservatives believe in energy independence. A new generation of clean energy will enable us to achieve three simultaneous conservative goals: To be liberated from dependence on dangerous dictatorships; to be effective in worldwide economic competition; and to provide for a much cleaner and healthier future.
Of course it’s easy to talk about achieving lofty environmental goals without damaging either our liberty or our economy. But how do we actually make Green Conservatism a reality? We do so by taking advantage of markets and incentives to achieve our environmental goals far more effectively than is possible through higher taxes. We emphatically reject as ineffective the liberal environmentalists’ focus on bureaucratic command-and-control regulations to preserve our natural world. Instead, Green Conservatism believes that we can realize more positive environmental outcomes faster by shifting tax code incentives and shifting market behavior than is possible from litigation and regulation.
The United States is ideally suited to achieving tremendous environmental progress precisely because we have such a dynamic and economically efficient free enterprise system. In this way, Green Conservatism builds on our inherent strengths as a nation, whereas liberal environmentalism actually undermines the very economic growth and efficiencies that so decisively contribute to environmental progress.
One of the reasons I am optimistic about the future of America is that we will experience between four and seven times as much new scientific knowledge and innovation in the next 25 years as we have had in the past 100. This means that America will excel at precisely those capabilities that will be required to renew and protect our environment —- unless, of course, we saddle ourselves with higher levels of regulation and taxation.
Green Conservatism aims to take advantage of this coming explosion in scientific knowledge and innovation by offering incentives that will direct this scientific progress toward our shared environment goals. One way to do this is to significantly invest in prizes as a competitive alternative to the current peer-reviewed process of scientific research. We should, for example, offer prizes for the development of high-gas- mileage cars and other carbon reduction challenges. Finding common- sense, pro-market ways to reduce our carbon emissions is the right thing to do.
Americans excel at using the power of the free market to make our lives better. Green Conservatism uses this strength by seeking the least economically destructive and least governmentally empowering ways to protect the environment.
Our generation faces the extraordinary challenge of bringing to bear science and technology, entrepreneurship and the principles of effective markets in order to enable people to have both a good life economically and a good life environmentally.
Conservatism shouldn’t ignore this challenge, we should embrace it. After all, we can stand toe to toe with liberals anywhere in America when it comes to wanting to build a better future for ourselves and our families. America’s 400-year experience of sound science, entrepreneurship and free markets to create better solutions for a better future has far outstripped what the lawyers and bureaucrats have ever done. It’s no different when it comes to the environment. Green Conservatism is an idea whose time has come.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and co-author with Terry L. Maple of "A Contract with the Earth," to be released this fall by Johns Hopkins University Press.