With Newt Gingrich set to officially embark on a race for the White House, here's a look at his focus on the environment.
Gingrich is different than many other potential Republican candidates because he has several clear positions on environmental policy. Not only has the former Speaker of the House written a book on environmental policy, he has rarely been shy about promoting his solutions. So without further ado let’s take a look:
'A Contract with Earth'
Anyone well-versed in 1990s politics knows about Gingrich’s Contract with America. But, did you know that a decade later, he penned a book called “A Contract with Earth" about green conservativism? The book outlines a path for improving the environment that differs from what Gingrich describes as the “ineffective liberal environmentalist” approach. Gingrich says liberals have for too long relied on “command-and-control regulations to preserve our natural world.” The “command-and-control” approach was the go-to move for environmentalists in the early 1980s, but it's questionable that this is still the de facto approach for eco-minded groups. It could be argued that environmental activists have gotten more localized and more innovative since the '80s. Still, that didn’t keep Gingrich from going on the offensive and suggesting that tax code incentives be updated to encourage green behavior. Gingrich also used "A Contract with Earth" to make clear that litigation and regulation are not his chosen means of cleaning up the planet. This brings us to his next point.
Replacing the EPA with the ESA
Gingrich often stresses a traditional Republican talking point, that regulation is bad. This principle is consistent with his argument that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must be eliminated. But Gingrich's stance also includes the creation of a new agency: the Environmental Solutions Agency (ESA). The elimination of the EPA is red meat for Republicans, but the ESA is a much leaner dish because Gingrich hasn’t said much about the ESA would do. The most I could find is a comment Gingrich made at a Tea Party event in South Carolina: “Replace the Environmental Protection Agency, which has become a job-killing regulatory engine of higher energy prices, with an Environmental Solutions Agency that would work cooperatively with local government and industry to achieve better environmental outcomes while considering the impact of federal environmental policies on job creation and the cost of energy.” The latter portion of that statement is not a bad idea, but tossing out all the standards for clean air, clean water, coal mining safety and acid rain may not be the wisest way to kickstart the ESA. (Unless, of course, that’s what Gingrich thinks his potential supporters want to hear. If that’s the case, then Newt’s idea makes perfect sense.)
Drill here, drill now, pay less
Yes, this is the phrase Gingrich has coined and continues to say whenever he mentions energy policy. Gingrich wants to stop the scare tactics about drilling in Alaska. He wants to give coastal states federal royalty revenue-sharing rights so that they will be more inclined to drill offshore, as the money from the drilling will go into the states’ operating budgets. Gingrich has said that he wants to end the ban on oil shale development in the American West. Considering that Nevada and South Carolina are early primary states, Gingrich may have formed a decent strategy. As for something for environmentalists, Gingrich says he would finance cleaner energy research with oil royalties. It’s not exactly red meat — or shall I say tofu? — for the greens, but it's something.
Nuclear, cap-and-trade, and lawsuits
Gingrich has been a staunch supporter of nuclear power in the United States, even in the wake of the nuclear disaster in Japan. At the aforementioned Tea Party event, Gingrich said that as president he would support the creation of a commission composed of engineers and scientists to evaluate if the U.S. needs to change its nuclear power standards. Gingrich has said that increasing our nuclear capacity would reduce our yearly carbon emissions by 2 billion tons. Gingrich is also against cap-and-trade. He has said that cap-and-trade would have zero impact on global temperatures, adding that the Kyoto Treaty is bad for America and bad for the environment.
As for the lawsuits, he doesn’t like them. Gingrich favors a “loser pays” law to address what he calls frivolous environmental lawsuits; those who raise them would pay all legal costs for the prevailing side. He says this would keep individuals and organizations from bringing up lawsuits simply for the purpose of halting energy production.