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Former congressman calls for climate solutions

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- During his second stint in Congress, Bob Inglis said Tuesday, his concerns about climate change grew.

The South Carolina Republican visited Antarctica twice, as part of congressional delegations. Those trips, he said, played a central role in convincing him about the validity of scientific research that global warming poses increasingly major risks to humanity and all forms of life around the world.

Inglis served three U.S. House terms between 1993 and 1999, then lost a bid for the Senate. He served another three House terms starting in 2003, and served as the ranking Republican on the House Science and Technology Committee's Subcommittee on Energy and Environment. But he lost his 2010 bid for re-election.

"I got tossed out of Congress because of my position on climate change," Inglis said during a visit to The Charleston Gazette newsroom on Tuesday. On Monday, he spoke at a West Virginia Boys State meeting at Jackson's Mill, near Weston.

During his unsuccessful 2010 re-election campaign, Inglis said, "people asked me what I was doing by working with the enemy."

Inglis is the director of the Energy and Enterprise Initiative, founded last July at George Mason University. The institute aims to explore and promote conservative solutions to America's climate change and energy challenges.

Today, he travels the around country speaking about threats from climate change and how to reduce carbon emissions.

"Today, I don't do political work, since the Energy and Enterprise Initiative is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. But I support free-enterprise solutions on energy and the climate," Inglis said. "I spend most of my time visiting campuses where I talk to Republicans, energy clubs, business schools, federalist societies and on talk radio stations."

Inglis believes carbon emissions will drop in part because "renewable fuels are not used up, while fossil fuels are getting to be used up."

"We have to find a way to produce power cleanly," he said. "It is hard to figure it out.

"States like West Virginia are also moving into natural gas. But a lot of jobs at those companies are not filled by local workers," Inglis said.

Inglis also spoke about massive shifts in job opportunities, not only in energy industries, but in other economic sectors as well.

"South Carolina was a major producer of textiles and tobacco. But we went under the bus. We were lucky that BMW came in and created 6,000 direct jobs and 19,000 suppliers' jobs."

The textile and clothing industries in North Carolina and other states, particularly in the South, have been devastated by cheap imports from countries like China.

Inglis believes free-market economics should be applied to cutting carbon emissions.

"I voted against cap-and-trade legislation. It is hopelessly complicated," Inglis said.

"You need to be accountable for all of your costs," Inglis said, referring to future costs, including environmental damage.

"We need to put an 'upstream tax' at the mines and at the pipelines to pay for the social costs of [producing and transporting] fuel. We can increase costs of production and cut some taxes."

Inglis opposed drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and also voted against troop surges in the Iraq war.

But he said he remains a conservative.

He points to his recent voting records in Congress that won him ratings of 93 percent from the American Conservative Union, 100 percent from both the Christian Coalition and National Right to Life, and an "A" from the National Rifle Association. Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal group, gave Inglis a "zero percent" voting record.

Inglis said he opposes proposals from labor unions and other groups to impose special taxes on foreign-made products because other countries pay lower wages and enforce weaker environmental standards.

But Inglis believes taxes should be imposed on some imports.

"It is hard to determine how much carbon is used to make Chinese flat steel. But we can base it [our estimates] of American equivalents. We will impose a tax on flat steel when it comes in here.

"You will kill productive capacity in the United States if you do nothing. GE, which uses a lot of energy, would move from my state to China," Inglis said.

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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