Even coal-heavy Wyoming willing to hear about idea of a carbon tax
by Allen Best
Jerry Blann, chief executive of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, went to Charleston, S.C., in May 2013 for a ski industry conference and returned to Wyoming with a message about climate change solutions he believes can resonate even in a state that produces nearly half of U.S. coal.
Former Republican congressman Bob Inglis spoke there. He was conservative enough to win the endorsement of the National Rifle Association, although not conservative enough to win re-election in 2008.
In Charleston, Inglis spoke about his upbringing in South Carolina, according to the recollections of several people who were there. He had grown up near a paper mill. “That’s the smell of money,” his parents and other townspeople had said of the air pollution. Returning as an adult for a meeting, the out-of-town visitors commented on the smell and asked him why people had tolerated it.
That experience, along with comments from his own children, pushed him to accept the science of climate change.
Inglis concluded that greenhouse gases, as with pollution from the paper plant, shouldn’t be allowed to pollute the atmosphere freely. After being defeated for re-election, Inglis founded the Energy and Enterprise Initiative, which advocates “conservative and free-enterprise solutions to energy and climate change.” Among the market-based solutions is a tax or fee on carbon emissions, with the intent of stimulating innovation and change.
The proposal by Inglis—similar to that being pushed by the Citizens’ Climate Lobby—would be revenue neutral, meaning taxes on carbon emissions would be returned to people through reduced income taxes or direct payments.
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Blann returned to Wyoming, where he persuaded Gov. Matt Mead to have Inglis speak at an economic forum. He says that Wyoming’s congressional delegation, although publicly protective of Wyoming’s carbon-based sector (See Nov. 25 op/ed by Sen. John Barrasso in the Wall Street Journal), do understand the need for changes.
“They get this. They do,” he says. He hopes a tax will stimulate innovation that allows Wyoming to continue to exploit its vast carbon resources through technology such as gasification and carbon capture and sequestration.