There is often a break in government between idealism and pragmatism. Too often, Congress or the president set off with a big idea and poorly execute it. Such is the case with the environment, in part because the government cannot replace the success of the free market. Furthermore, partisan beliefs have inserted themselves as roadblocks to meaningful reform on conservation and the environment for many years. However, there are those who seek to augment capitalism and environmental issues to foster positive change, so here are 20 leaders doing just that.
1) Jaime Herrera-Beutler
Jaime Herrera Beutler serves Southwest Washington’s third district. She prides herself on striving to protect natural resources in the Pacific Northwest while allowing job creators to keep creating well-paid jobs. Most recently, Representative Beutler applauded the EPA’s decision to repeal the burdensome “Waters of the U.S.” rule. In a statement, Beutler expressed her dissatisfaction with the rule, writing that it “will do very little to protect our environment, yet could do so much to hurt farmers, small business operators, and important economic activity.”
2) Reed Watson
Reed Watson currently serves as the executive director of the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC). The mission behind PERC is simple: to improve environmental quality through the free market and property rights. PERC believes that free markets are the key to protecting the environment because free markets are essential for economic growth and economic growth is invariably tied to improving environmental conditions. Watson’s research specifically focuses on how markets can fix public land, wildlife, and water problems.
3) Bob Inglis
Bob Inglis serves as the executive director of republicEn, a conservative organization with a mission to “[educate] the country about free-enterprise solutions to climate change.” republicEn believes the most effective way to fight climate change is to leave behind government regulations and subsidies and focus on a free enterprise mindset. Inglis founded the group on the following four principles: limited government, accountability, free enterprise, and environmental stewardship. One major point that Inglis champions is environmental tax reform. He proposes that we “eliminate all subsidies for all fuels. Make all fuels fully accountable for all of the costs they bring upon society. Figure a way to make it in our trading partners' interests to join us on a level playing field where all products bear all of their climate costs.”
4) Jerry Taylor
A former climate change denier and former vice president of the Cato Institute, Jerry Taylor serves as the president of the Niskanen Center, a libertarian-leaning organization that advocates for free market environmentalism. One of the missions set forth by the group is to ensure that the government does not violate private property rights in the fight against climate change. Further, the Center supports a revenue neutral carbon tax tied to a roll back of the EPA regulatory authority of greenhouse gas emissions.
5) Kelly Ayotte
Former New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte has been committed to environmental reform since beginning her time in public office. She is former member of the Energy and Environment Working Group alongside Senators Lamar Alexander, Mark Kirk, and Lindsey Graham. The group intended to find market-based solutions for combatting climate change. While she may no longer be in office, her fight for the environment is not over. Most recently, Ayotte was named as a senior adviser to Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions. The mission behind CRES is to promote “commonsense, conservative solutions to address our nation’s need for abundant, reliable energy while preserving our environment.” In a statement, Ayotte said that she looks forward to “supporting clean energy policies that make sense for New Hampshire and for citizens across the country.” The group believes in cutting regulations and promoting the private sector in the fight against global warming.
6) Carlos Curbelo
Representative Carlos Curbelo serves Florida’s 26th district and is a champion for conservative approaches to environmental issues, serving as co-chair of the Climate Solutions Caucus. Most recently, Representative Curbelo, alongside Elise Stefanik (NY-21) and Ryan Costello (PA-06), led House colleagues in a resolution that would result in using American innovation to help with environmental challenges. In a statement, Representative Curbelo acknowledged climate change and said that “every Member of Congress has a responsibility to our constituents and future generations to support market-based solutions, investments, and innovations that could alleviate the effects of climate change and make our nation more resilient. Our goal with this resolution is to shift the debate from whether climate change is real toward the tangible efforts to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate its effects.”
7) Brandon Scarborough
Brandon Scarborough works as a research fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC). His research focuses heavily on how we can protect stream flows for wildlife by way of water markets. Scarborough also investigates carbon sequestration and the correlation between individual economic prosperity and demand for environmental improvement. Inspired by his passion for water market, Scarborough co-wrote Tapping Water Markets with Reed Watson and Terry Anderson.
8) Elise Stefanik
Representative Elise Stefanik (NY-21) is helping lead the House fight against climate change. Shortly after the Climate Resolution was introduced, Stefanik spoke on the House floor on the importance of the resolution. In expressing the vital importance of the resolution, Stefanik said, “Clean energy innovation is critical, and this resolution brings together the priority of addressing the risks of climate change with the importance of protecting and creating American jobs. This resolution calls for ‘American ingenuity, innovation, and exceptionalism,’ citing that it is a ‘conservative principle to protect, conserve, and be good stewards of our environment.’”
9) Martha Marks
Currently serving as the chairwoman of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship, Martha Marks co-founded CRS in the 1990s. Marks was also the president of Conservatives for Environment Protection, now known as ConservAmerica. Throughout her life, she has championed wildlife preservation, especially as a commissioner for the Forest Preserve District Board in Lake County, Illinois.
10) Rob Sisson
Rob Sisson is the president of ConservAmerica. Sisson has countless years of public service under his belt, including two terms as mayor of Sturgis, Michigan, as well as multiple years as city commissioner. Sisson is an advocate for using clean, renewable energy. In an op-ed for The Hill, Sisson detailed the importance of conservatives leading the charge against climate change and challenged the notion that windmills are killing eagles, arguing the biggest threat to the species was climate change. “We can develop clean energy that benefits us economically, and do so in a way that increases the number of eagles because of the conservation steps needed to qualify for a permit. American wind power helps curb the biggest threat to wildlife. Today, installed U.S. wind power avoids 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually,” Sisson wrote.
11) Terry Anderson
A key figure in the launch of free market environmentalism, Terry Anderson serves as a senior fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC). Throughout his time as a free market environmentalist, he has sparked debate over the role of the government in managing our nation’s natural resources. Anderson has written thirty-seven books that focus on the environment and how free markets effectively help to protect it. Most notably, Anderson co-wrote Free Market Environmentalism with Donald Leal, the book that originally introduced the notion of the power of free markets to improve the environment.
12) Gary Libecap
Gary Libecap is a professor of Corporate Environmental Management at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management. Libecap had a role in developing the Eco-Entrepreneurship focus. Libecap is currently researching the legal, economic, and policy features of water allocation in the United States.
13) Jonathan Adler
The most cited administrative and environmental law academic under 50, Jonathan Adler has quite the resume. He has testified before Congress on a dozen occasions, and his work has been used before the U.S. Supreme Court. He frequently publishes scholarly works on fisheries management and the limits of the federal government’s environmental regulations. He holds positions in numerous organizations that bolster free market principles, such as the National Federation of Independent Business Legal Foundation.
14) John Baden
John Baden is the founder of the Foundation for Research on Economics & the Environment, an organization whose mission statement includes that “our nation’s founders envisioned social cooperation and value creation fostered through the rule of law, secure property rights, and the market process, not centralized command and control.” Baden helped steer the creation of the New Resource Economics, an incentive-based approach to environmental issues. Baden received his PhD from Indiana University and has authored or contributed to several books.
15) Daniel Benjamin
Daniel Benjamin serves as a senior fellow and fellowship director at the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC). As an economist, Benjamin researches the correlation between government policy changes and the private sector. Right now, Benjamin is looking at how the public views environmental risks. Benjamin's recent work focused on the economics of recycling and found that municipal recycling programs are ineffective.
16) Laura Jones
Laura Jones is a vice president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. Prior to her role there, she worked for the Fraser Institute, a libertarian and conservative organization, as director of environment and regulatory studies. She has authored and co-authored policy studies and books ranging from “Searching for Solutions: Experiments in Fisheries Management on Canada’s West Coast” to Safe Enough? Managing Risk and Regulation. Jones has also appeared before congressional and parliamentary committees to speak on sundry matters.
17) Preston Manning
Preston Manning was the leader and founder of the Reform Party in Canada. Following his retirement from Parliament, he founded the Manning Centre for Building Democracy. Manning said this in an interview in 2014: “Conservatives can play a big role in reconciling these interests. The words “conservative” and “conservation” come from the same root. Living within your means – something that fiscal conservatives believe in – is actually an ecological concept. You can’t take more out of a natural system than goes back into it. Conservatives could make the harnessing of market mechanisms to environmental conservation their signature contribution.” Manning also co-wrote a policy paper that argued for “the benefits a free and open market” for a strong Canada, especially in the environmental arena.
18) Donald Leal
Donald Leal is a senior fellow emeritus at the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC). Leal heavily focuses his research on protecting and restoring ocean fisheries. He is presently working with Environmental Defense and the Reason Foundation to create fishing rights-based options for the Gulf of Mexico shrimp fishery, as well as leading seminars to inform congressional staffers on reforming federal fishery management. Additionally, Leal is passionate about entrepreneurs who use market-based solutions to solve environmental problems. He co-wrote Enviro-Capitalists: Doing Good While Doing Well with Terry Anderson to spotlight entrepreneurs around the world who are using free markets to improve the environment. Leal occasionally contributes to the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Chicago Tribune to discuss federal land use policy and outdoor recreation.
19) Julian Morris
Vice president of research at the Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advocating free markets, Julian Morris focuses on economic growth and development and its relationship to environmental protection. He has written many articles on a variety of topics (including internet regulation), and previously worked at the Institute of Economic Affairs in London as the head of its environment and technology program. In an article for the Reason Foundation, Morris argues that the market plays a vital role in protecting people from climate change, saying, “universal adoption of the institutions of the free society would better enable adaptation to climate both now and in the future.”
20) Bruce Yandle
A distinguished professor at George Mason University, Bruce Yandle is a specialist on governmental regulations and free market environmentalism. He visits Capitol Hill to brief lawmakers on economic issues and is famous for his “Baptists and Bootleggers” model of politics and regulation. A former senior economist in the White House and Executive Director of the Federal Trade Commission under the Reagan Administration, Yandle has plenty of experience in Washington and has authored or edited more than a dozen books on regulation and the environment and the relationship between the two.
Breaking the mold is what leads to tremendous breakthroughs. These leaders are defying stereotypes from both the left and right, from “conservatives don’t believe in the environment” to “the free market leads to environmental tragedies.” Together, we can change the narrative and secure our natural resources, land, clean air and water, and quality of life for our children and those who will come after them. These individuals are leading the fight for free market environmentalism. Will you join them?