How I Became a Green Republican — and Started Putting Green Ideas into Action

An Essay by Trammell S. Crow, President of the Crow Family Foundation and Founder of EarthX

Marketplace solutions and conservative ideals are effective means of addressing environmental challenges.

An exhibitor at the Earthx2019 exhibition. (via EarthX)

As a Dallas-based business executive and environmentalist, I believe that the marketplace can offer solutions for the environment, and that green conservative ideas can help cities and states adapt to a changing climate. Effective environmental solutions need not be at odds with economic growth; solutions can also be profitable when consumers are educated and demand eco-friendly goods and services.

I was raised a Republican, studied economics at Yale, and ran an international business that showed me how important the market economy is to America’s economic success. Much of my business career was spent running trade marts, both the Dallas Market Center and the International Trade Mart in Brussels, Belgium. The most vibrant, profitable wholesale centers bring together the best variety of buyers and sellers, and maximize their interactions.

But I have been an environmentalist since I first learned the word at age 10. And when I began to realize how dire the environmental threats are to my children and future generations, I declared myself a Green Republican. I began supporting environmental organizations and politicians who understand that the best environmental solutions will come not from simply government regulation, but from market-driven, business-led innovations. Ideas of sustainable design in real estate and electric vehicles, for example, have always intrigued me.

I was raised a Republican, studied economics at Yale, and ran an international business that showed me how important the market economy is to America’s economic success. ... But I have been an environmentalist since I first learned the word at age 10.

Yet I have always wanted to put ideas into action. Based on my experience with trade marts, I envisioned an environmental marketplace of ideas. That’s why I founded EarthX in 2011 to promote environmental education and solutions.

Creating a marketplace of ideas 

EarthX hosts the annual Dallas gathering, which is now the world’s largest environmental exposition, conference, and film festival. EarthX brings together business, government, environmental organizations, and academic institutions to educate the public and inspire citizens to action. In our first year, we had over 38,000 visitors and 200 exhibitors. We then expanded the event and grew into Earth Day Texas. This year, we convened 175,000 visitors, including 6,000 K-12 students, 2,000 conferees and speakers, and 700 exhibitors.

A solar powered car at the 2018 EarthxExpo in Fair Park in Dallas, Texas. (via EarthX)

This marketplace of ideas brings together leaders from across the country and the political spectrum. We take special care to include both Democrats and Republicans, corporations and small businesses, and welcome all with a green story and goals to participate. 

This marketplace of ideas brings together leaders from across the country and the political spectrum. We take special care to include both Democrats and Republicans, corporations and small businesses, and welcome all with a green story and goals to participate.

The participants engage in environmental conversations that would not otherwise happen because they are focused on solutions, not problems. They also have a number of opportunities to discuss solutions, such as at our annual Future 500 Summit. This private convening of corporate leaders and environmental activists sparks debates and unlikely collaborations. Our E-Capital Summit matches investors with innovators in clean tech, who often have difficulty finding funding but find success at our event.

EarthxCities presents another opportunity for collaboration. This year, EarthxCities participants presented resilience and adaptation strategies for city leaders, architects, and developers. Proposals for crowd-funding natural disaster responses and funding mechanisms for resilient water projects resonated strongly with participants and will see results.

Similarly, EarthxEnergy profiled a comprehensive energy strategy. The ingredients included combining low emissions natural gas with carbon capture, nuclear, hydrogen, and renewables for citizens and corporations. And EarthxOceans convened island leaders who are working toward resiliency through renewable energy. (We also honored Jean Michel Cousteau, who inspired President George W. Bush to create the world’s largest ocean preserve, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Monument, 10 years ago.) 

Promoting green ideas

I believe green conservative ideas are especially important to promote; conservation is by nature conservative. Efforts like DEPLOY/US, ConservAmerica, and the Clean Capitalist Coalition ensure environmental solutions attract Republican, and thus bipartisan, broad-based support. That is how we will enact environmental legislation that allows the best market-driven solutions to emerge. 

DEPLOY/US works to increase the impact of right-of-center environmental organizations on climate and clean energy efforts. This non-partisan organization connects military, business, and faith groups to work together on environmental issues; helps them develop funding for their mission; and amplifies their voices in the media.

ConservAmerica, for example, advocates for a “zero regrets” plan that would eliminate federal taxes on electricity that is fueled by power sources with no emissions (nuclear, wind, hydropower, solar, and geothermal, e.g.) The organization also has succeeded in getting Arizona’s largest utility to provide rooftop and community-based access to solar power for low-income residents. The goal is to replicate this strategy in other states.

The Clean Capitalist Coalition supports the “zero regrets plan” and is developing its own proposals, including the use of clean asset bonds. These bonds would help create a broad-based capital market for green investment by incenting both debt and taxable equity investment.

The Coalition also advocates energy innovation tax credits that are not limited to one or more technologies as long as they contribute to lowered carbon emissions, greater efficiencies, or decreased pollution. This ensures a more balanced energy policy approach and ensures all businesses have an equal playing field.

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