Earth Chats: Newt Gingrich
How to lower carbon output without hurting the economy or expanding governmental powers.
Slate invited Newt Gingrich to take readers' questions on Washingtonpost.com about the best ways to address global warming. An unedited transcript of the chat follows. See the schedule of Slate's upcoming Earth Chats.
Newt Gingrich: I want to start by saying that I believe we need an entrepreneurial, science and technology oriented approach to the environment, and that most Americans agree with that. If you go to www.americansolutions.com, and pull up the Platform of the American People, you will see that a majority of Democrats, independents, and Republicans all agree that entrepreneurs can do more than bureaucrats to solve environmental challenges.
Newt Gingrich: I think the tragedy has been that conservatives have been unwilling to spend the time and energy to debate the left on which will produce the better outcome.
For example, if you are really worried about carbon loading of the atmosphere...if the United States produced the same percentage of our electricity from nuclear power as the French, we would take 2 billion, 200 million tons of carbon out of the atmosphere a year, and that one step would be 15 percent better than the total Kyoto goal for the U.S.
So with that as an example, I look forward to answering your questions.
Cedar Falls, Iowa: To what extent should the federal government finance research and development for green technologies?
Newt Gingrich: Very substantially in three forms.
1. Tripling the size of the Nat'l Science Foundation.
2. By creating significant tax credits for R&D and the development of new replacement technologies.
3. By offering very bold prizes that would be tax free for key breakthroughs such as a mass-producible hydrogen car.
Chicago: Mr. Gingrich, I was wondering what your thoughts were on a carbon tax versus a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions. Do you favor either? Why? Thanks!
Newt Gingrich: Neither. I prefer incentives to punishments because they work faster and with less distortion of the economy. For instance, I favor tax credits for dramatically reducing carbon emissions. I favor a tax credit for trading in old cars that are the most polluting. I favor a tax credit for nuclear power, solar, and wind.
Huron, S.D.: Sir, with Congress and the current president barely able to negotiate a bathroom break, and the promise of Republican payback looming if the Democrats take power in 2009, what leads you to believe that this issue will be any different than so many others as important? This issue is critical to our survival, but has been prioritized by our country as only a middle layer of the onion yet to be peeled. Who has to give what, and how much?
Newt Gingrich: The reason we founded American Solutions and the reason we developed the Platform of the American People (containing items supported by a majority of Democrats, independents, and Republicans) was to find issues that bring us together so we can have a red, white, and blue dialogue instead of a red vs. blue debate.
One of the things we should propose to our politicians is that they spend 3 days a week working on items they agree on, and 2 days a week on items they know they will disagree on.
Anyone who says they can't find things we agree on should be fired, because it is simply not true. In the end, we get the elected officials we tolerate.
Kensington, Md.: Kudos to you for this new initiative, and we all need for you to be successful (speaking as a liberal here). But why do you suppose conservatives have been so virulently hostile to science these past few decades? It's really like watching the 16th century papacy coming to terms with astronomy.
Newt Gingrich: Since I headed the Republican House which doubled the size of the NIH budget, served on the Hart-Rudman Comission, which said the decline of math and science education was our second greatest threat as a country, and helped save the international space station when short-sighted people wanted to kill it, I'm not sure I identify with your question.
New York: Mr. Gingrich, do you have a suggestion as to why an absolute neophyte to the anthropogenic global warming concept should discount the recent evidence regarding the Medieval Warm Period? I am a former firm believer in AGW myself, yet I no longer support the theory, as I have not heard a single prominent environmental advocate who can discount the higher temperatures and lower carbon dioxide concentrations of that period.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is author of A Contract With the Earth.
Photograph of Newt Gingrich by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.