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Public perception of Republicans at the moment tends to skew in the direction of believing the GOP is anti-environment and fossil fuel loving. When one looks under the surface of the diverse mix of voices within right-leaning politics, however, one finds interesting ideas of those who believe conservative values and eco-friendly ideas like clean energy can work hand and hand in some fashion. One such voice is a group called Republicans for Environmental Protection (REP), whose stated mission on its Web site is “to resurrect the GOP’s great conservation tradition and to restore natural resource conservation and sound environmental protection as fundamental elements of the Republican Party’s vision for America.”
While this doesn’t necessarily mean this group always falls in step with left leaning views on environmental protections and clean energy policy, REP does provide some interesting food for thought around what some might call “compassionate conservatism” viewpoints on these topics. REP, for example, stirred the waters somewhat recently with a new radio ad campaign asking “What Would Reagan Do”, reportedly to “honor the former president’s memory as a conservationist and remind listeners that good environmental stewardship, including action to address climate change, is consistent with true conservative values.” It even launched a Web site around this campaign, aptly named ClimateConservative.org.
To find out exactly where at least a part of the conservative movement and eco-focused issues like clean energy meet on the political highway, we interviewed over email Jim DiPeso, policy director for REP:
EarthTechling: Talk a little about Republicans for Environmental Protection. What exactly is your mission?
Jim DiPeso: REP was founded to move the GOP back towards more responsible positions on conservation and environmental protection. If you read through the works of influential conservative thinkers from the past – e.g., Edmund Burke and Russell Kirk – you’ll find that good stewardship of our societal inheritance, including the environment, is central to the ethic of true conservatism.
We are an independently founded and managed grassroots organization. We are funded almost exclusively by individual donations, and do not have an official tie to any party organization.
Part of our work involves re-acquainting the country with the environmental accomplishments of past Republican leaders, in an effort to show that the environment should not be framed as a partisan issue. Theodore Roosevelt, who protected many millions of acres as national forests, wildlife refuges, and monuments, is only the most well known example. Abraham Lincoln set a precedent for national parks by setting aside Yosemite Valley for public enjoyment. Herbert Hoover expanded our national parks system. Dwight Eisenhower established what is now the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Richard Nixon established EPA and successfully sought passage of the Clean Air Act. Ronald Reagan, who often is not regarded as an environmental leader, pushed for passage of the Montreal Protocol, the most effective environmental treaty in history.
Today, environmental issues are framed in partisan terms. People are stereotyped depending on their environmental attitudes – if you believe in protecting the environment, you’re considered a liberal; if you dismiss the importance of protecting the environment, you’re considered conservative. This state of affairs is destructive, inconsistent with conservative traditions, and is a disservice to the country. We believe that the country would be far better off if environmental politics was a debate between conservatives and liberals over the most effective means for practicing environmental stewardship.