ON-Lion Letter

Conservatives shouldn't have to apologize for responding with squeamishness to the apocalypticism that frequently accompanies the environmental movement.  Conservatives, however, have compelling reasons to pay attention to environmental issues, according to Steven F. Hayward in a new book on the environment and energy that is part of the Room to Grow series.  The environment is too important of a policy area to cede to progressives, who have used their monopoly of the topic as a prerogative to enact regulations that constrain economic activity and freedom.

Hayward is the Ronald Reagan Distinguished Visiting Professor at Pepperdine University's School of Public Policy and a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute (PRI) in San Francisco.

Conservative leaders, Hayward believes, have much in common with many Millennials who prioritize environmental concerns:  recognition that the state-centric, command-and-control approach cannot meet the environmental challenges of today.  This is the case with climate change.  Conservatives are right to be upset that some members of the scientific and policy communities have imposed orthodoxy and sought to be the sole voice on the issue.  Conservatives should also be upset that the Left's proposed solution to regulate energy use would do little to solve the climate problem they claim to want to address.  "[T]he more serious climate change may turn out to be, the less plausible or effective is the policy prescription of environmentalists, which is near term carbon suppression through regulation or new taxes," he writes.

Instead, a solution to the most-serious climate-change threat could only come about through innovations in energy production, and stimulating innovation is right up conservatives' alley.  Right now, policies designed to encourage alternative energy use actually discourage innovation, because subsidies for subpar technologies like wind and solar serve as a disincentive for private actors to invest in power sources capable of displacing fossil fuels.  Conservatives should ensure the federal government avoids picking energy winners and losers and distributes research-funding grants in the same diffused way it does for medical research, Hayward recommends.  Additionally, conservatives need to trumpet the market forces encouraging innovation, investment, and entrepreneurship in alternative-energy technologies.

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee substantially supports the Room to Grow series.  Bradley also supports PRI.

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