Republicans’ lukewarm climate warrior
Across the street from the Washington Convention Center, through a narrow door tucked between a bar and what used to be a furniture rental store, up two flights of rickety stairs, Eli Lehrer is sitting in his small, sparsely decorated office, drinking a Diet Coke and explaining how to sell the Republican Party on a carbon tax. After listening to him for an hour, I start to think it might work.
Lehrer is an odd candidate for the job of saving the planet, not least because he doesn’t seem that enthusiastic about it. Where liberals talk about climate policy in near-messianic terms of protecting future generations, Lehrer calls climate change real but relatively unimportant, blames Democrats for making it part of the culture war and points out that carbon dioxide is “not intrinsically harmful to human health.”
In other words, Lehrer, a 38-year-old Chicagoan who runs a think tank called the R Street Institute, seems as if he could talk climate change with most Republicans without tripping any alarms. His bona fides are good: He was a speech writer for Republican Bill Frist when he was Senate majority leader and was later vice president of the libertarian think tank the Heartland Institute, until he quit over a billboard that made questionable reference to the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski…