Old dog, Newt tricks: Gingrich’s views on climate, EPA, and ‘green conservatism’
Newt Gingrich has been all over the map on climate change. Instead of trying to pinpoint all his many stances from over the years (who even has that many pins?), I’ll just highlight a few key moments.
In 2008, when the cool kids were at least feigning concern for climate change, Gingrich appeared with then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a TV ad for Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection. “[O]ur country must take action to address climate change,” Gingrich solemnly proclaimed.
In the intervening years, as climate denial has became de rigueur in the Tea Party set, the ad has brought much joy to Newt’s many detractors on the right and left (our own David Roberts among them), and provoked much consternation and contortion from Gingrich himself.
In December 2011, Gingrich repudiated the ad more fully than ever before:
I’ve said publicly, sitting on the couch with Nancy Pelosi is the dumbest single thing I’ve done in the last few years. But if you notice, I’ve never favored cap and trade, and in fact, I actively testified against it.
The Washington Post‘s “Fact Checker” column said it was “disingenuous” of Gingrich to claim that he has “never favored cap and trade.” (“‘Disingenuous’ is a kind way of saying ‘false,'” Joe Romm helpfully explained.) In 2007, Gingrich praised the cap-and-trade concept:
I think if you have mandatory carbon caps combined with a trading system, much like we did with sulfur, and if you have a tax-incentive program for investing in the solutions, that there’s a package there that’s very, very good. And frankly, it’s something I would strongly support.
Mitt Romney has the flip-flopper reputation, but Gingrich is just as acrobatic.
Gingrich’s “green conservatism”
Over the last few years, Gingrich has promoted what he calls “green conservatism.” (David wrote about it here, here, and here.) In a 2010 interview with Grist, he talked about one of its key tenets — that “wealth and freedom generally lead to better environmental practices.” He also touches on the BP oil spill, the need for energy subsidies, the fear the EPA provokes in corporate America, and the importance of protecting biodiversity. (Gingrich does love animals.)
In 2007, Gingrich coauthored a book about green conservatism, A Contract with the Earth, and he’s currently co-editing a forthcoming book of essays on the same theme, Environmental Entrepreneurs. (In between, he published Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less.)
Environmental Entrepreneurs got caught up in controversy in December 2011 when Rush Limbaugh and other right-wingers got wind of the fact that it was to include a chapter on climate change by an atmospheric scientist, Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech. Gingrich promptly declared that the chapter would be dropped from the book, without any forewarning to Hayhoe. She talked to Grist about the whole episode.
A year ago, Gingrich called for the EPA to be abolished and replaced with an “Environmental Solutions Agency,” which he says would “work with industry instead of dictating to industry and incentivize the use of newer technologies instead of punishing current businesses.” (David, who’s clearly obsessed, wrote about that too.)
Gingrich has been in politics so long, written so many books, and thrown out so many harebrained ideas that I could only touch on the highlights here. If you’re dying to know more about Newt, check out some of Grist’s recent coverage and a few classics from the archives:
- On cleantech, no Newt is good Newt
- Newt Gingrich’s stances on urban issues
- Newt Gingrich thinks riding the subway is for fancy people
- Newt Gingrich, ‘amateur paleontologist,’ knows science better than you
- Gore and Gingrich bump heads at House climate hearing
- Newt Gingrich’s ‘green conservatism’ — It’s not an alternative, it’s a subset
- Gingrich’s further explications of green conservatism do not inspire confidence
- Gingrich summarizes the state-of-the-art delayer line
- A review of A Contract with the Earth