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Let The Markets Work

We agree with Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus’s proposition that government has an important role to play in responding to the challenge of global climate change.

In our book, A Contract with the Earth, we argue that America needs an energy and environmental strategy that passes a three-part test. It must: marginalize the oil dictators, reduce the amount of carbon discharged into the atmosphere, and create an even more productive economy for the future. We reject, along with Shellenberger and Nordhaus, the approaches of those who insist on a bureaucratic command-and-control structure to oversee our environmental future. We think that any strategy that relies on more carbon taxes, more government regulations, more control by bureaucracies, and more litigation by trial lawyers will inherently fail to meet our three-part test.

In contrast, we believe that the American experience proves again and again that a market-oriented approach that encourages entrepreneurs to use new science and new technology creates more progress than any other system. We believe the same will be true for a new energy and environmental strategy that meets the three-part test.

We have consistently argued that modest incentives will not advance innovation, which is why we outline bold government incentives in our book. Robust government tax incentives and both public and private prizes for innovation are likely to stimulate the kind of “transformational technologies” that are needed. For example, a prize of $1 billion would help our nation sprint to a hydrogen economy and dramatically speed up our movement towards a domestically produced form of clean, sustainable energy. Stimulating the marketplace of new ideas will also provide opportunities for massive technology transfer as rapidly developing countries look to America for cleaner, greener sources of energy. Further, we have argued that an effective, decisive American government is absolutely essential if we want to shift from our increasingly dangerous dependence on petroleum products controlled by oligarchies and dictatorships. American innovation in energy will ensure that our nation is both green and free.

We believe that the investment required to achieve our environmental objectives will be in the billions, but an investment of this size is very achievable, in our opinion, particularly if the money is used to offer the large incentives and prizes that will stimulate significant private investment. American universities and industries lead the world in innovation, and we must continue to encourage this trend through a national commitment to science and engineering education. Conservatives should lead the way in advocating significant government investments in energy, science, and technology.

An effective government stimulates innovation by the reduction of bureaucratic red-tape and burdensome regulation. A conservative approach to environmental problem-solving does not bloat the federal bureaucracy; instead, it provides the necessary incentives to stimulate entrepreneurial solutions to meet the energy and environmental challenges we face. This approach is also the best way to protect our national security, grow the economy, and renew the earth.

Newt Gingrich was the Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999. Terry L. Maple is a professor of psychology at Georgia Tech.

(Tomorrow: Shellenberger and Nordhaus respond.)


By Newt Gingrich and Terry L. Maple