AUBURN — Then-U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis, with encouragement from his son, acknowledged climate change was a problem. He wanted to do something about it, so he introduced a bill in 2009 that would impose a tax on coal, oil and other sources of carbon emissions.
The following year, Inglis — who represented a solidly Republican district in South Carolina — lost in the GOP primary. His congressional career was over, but his advocacy for a climate change solution — a proposal that could appeal to businesses and members of his party — continues.
Inglis joined Kyle Thomas of the Citizens' Climate Lobby for a presentation Tuesday at the Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce in Auburn. They outlined the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, a bill that would levy a rising carbon fee on fossil fuels. It's a revenue-neutral proposal because rebates would be provided to households.
If the carbon fee and dividend is adopted, Thomas said it would reduce emissions by at least 40% in 12 years and create more than 2 million jobs in the U.S. over a 10-year period.
There would be a provision to to shield U.S. producers from negative consequences. A border carbon adjustment would apply to imports.
Inglis and Thomas highlighted some of the bill's supporters, including ExxonMobil, General Motors and the National Small Business Association. In Congress, the legislation was introduced by U.S. Rep. Ted Deutsch, a Florida Democrat, and has 34 cosponsors. One of the cosponsors, U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney, is a Republican.
One attendee asked how they could persuade U.S. Rep. John Katko, a Republican who represents Cayuga County, to sign on as a cosponsor. Thomas said they have met with Katko about the measure. Katko, he continued, acknowledges climate change is real and has "spoken favorably" about the bill.
Thomas encouraged the audience to contact Katko and show their support for the carbon fee proposal.
"If he believes business is particularly in support of it, we think there's a good chance that he will cosponsor this bill in Congress this session," Thomas said.
Inglis added that there must be support conservative action on climate change.
"We want to be the best friend to Congressman Katko and any other Republican who wants to lead on climate change," he said.
Inglis also discussed the differences between his approach and the Green New Deal backed by, among others, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Inglis recently participated in a climate change-themed televised town hall meeting with Ocasio-Cortez.
He didn't criticize any specific planks of the Green New Deal. Instead, he said they want a "much bolder" proposal than a plan that would be limited to the U.S.
"If America is doing this by itself," Inglis said, referring to combating climate change, "it's a bad deal. In fact, it's probably not worth doing. If the world doesn't do it with us, there's very little reason to do it."
Inglis supports the carbon fee and dividend proposal because he believes it would force other countries, namely China, to take action. The proposed border carbon adjustment would tax goods imported by China. China would likely challenge the adjustment before the World Trade Organization. He thinks they would lose that case.
If the WTO issues a favorable ruling for the U.S., Inglis expects that China and other countries would impose the same carbon tax on imports.
"Use the power of the American market to make it so it's in their interest," Inglis said.