WASHINGTON (August 11, 2016) – Although environmental conservation is a fundamentally conservative principle, modern conservatives have ceded the debate to the political left, according to a new policy study by R Street Associate Fellow Todd Myers.

This has led conservatives frequently to lack a consistent, credible, market-driven response when serious environmental issues arise, Myers argues.

“Without an alternative approach to environmental policy, conservatives can feel boxed in, forced to claim environmental problems either are a ‘hoax’ or not as serious as environmentalists claim,” he writes. “This is, indeed, sometimes the case. But where there is real pollution or other problems of environmental degradation, the standard conservative line of defense is untenable. Lacking effective policy alternatives, each fight over environmental issues that conservatives lose necessarily means more government expansion.”

Unfortunately, even setting aside concerns over the inadvisable growth of government, this approach also happens to be demonstrably ineffective in actually addressing the environmental concerns at-issue.

“What relatively few realize is that the political left’s reflexive preference for more regulation often has been demonstrated to be bad for the environment,” Myers explains.

Instead, conservatives need to apply proven principles to conservation efforts, by using the market to incentivize environmental stewardship.

“Where there are a limited number of entities and negotiation costs are low, a voluntary or property-rights approach can find solutions that work best for those involved and for the environment,” Myers writes. “Where pollution is distributed over a large number of people, a simple and transparent fee attaches personal responsibility to environmental impact, provide an incentive to reduce pollution and offers the personal freedom to choose how to avoid that fee.”

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