According to Bob Inglis, former South Carolina US House member, he represented the reddest district in the reddest state in the nation. So it is interesting that one of the bluest families from the bluest state has selected him as a Profiles in Courage Award winner. Inglis is being recognized because of his determination that we must act now to address human-caused climate change—a position that cost him his seat in Congress while running for re-election in 2010. Now, freed from the burden of fundraising and legislating, Inglis challenges Republican officeholders to understand the benefits of a policy that would tax fossil fuels and use the revenues raised to reduce other tax burdens.
Inglis’ selection as a Profiles in Courage Award winner brings to mind President John F. Kennedy, the man who inspired the award. Kennedy will always be remembered as the president who challenged America to “send a man to the moon and return him safely to earth before the end of the decade.” Kennedy went on to say “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”
At the time Kennedy made his challenge, virtually nothing was known about what it would take to send a man to the moon, much less return him safely to earth. The U.S. had only just launched Alan Shepard into space, and Shepard’s trip did not even include orbiting the earth. Development of multi-man space modules, lunar landers, and manned orbital rendezvous all came later. In spite of our collective ignorance at the time, the U.S. met Kennedy’s challenge with months to spare.
The spinoffs and benefits of the space effort are legend, but ultimately landing on the moon had little impact on life back on earth. But Bob Inglis’ pursuit of Republican support for a revenue-neutral carbon tax is all about life on earth and protecting us from catastrophic climate change. Unfortunately for Inglis, he isn’t President and can’t issue his own challenge—but other Republicans could.
Take, for example, Governor Charlie Baker. Baker knows we face energy shortages because demand for natural gas is outstripping pipeline capacity. The easy solution of expanding capacity has been challenged by well-organized grassroots opposition to increased use of fossil fuels and growing concern that Massachusetts will not meet its 2020 greenhouse gas-emissions-reduction goals.
When Bob Inglis comes to Massachusetts to accept his award on May 3rd, Charlie Baker should meet with him. Hearing firsthand from Inglis about the economic and environmental benefits of a revenue-neutral carbon tax might give Baker the courage to make Massachusetts the first state to implement this approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Baker should borrow a lesson from both JFK and Bob Inglis. He should challenge the state to reduce dependence on natural gas by 50% in ten years while continuing to grow our economy at or above the national average. Rather than ask Massachusetts taxpayers to fund a clean energy revolution, he should support implementation of a revenue-neutral carbon tax to mobilize the free market to achieve these goals.
Unlike when Kennedy proposed putting a man on the moon, we already have many of the technologies and knowledge we need to achieve this goal. Conservation, efficiency, and renewable energy sources will all help. Demand-management, smart meters, and microgrids will all be perfected using private funds, generating jobs for our residents and profits for investors.
Massachusetts’ youth yearn for inspiration, challenge, and opportunity. All three would follow if Gov. Baker started the clean energy revolution we so desperately need by supporting implementation of a revenue-neutral carbon tax in Massachusetts.
JFK and Bob Inglis have led the way. Does Charlie Baker have the courage to follow?