A poster for Caleb Q. Dyer for State Representative. (Photo courtesy Caleb Q. Dyer)
Q&A: Libertarianism and environmentalism with New Hampshire State Rep. Caleb Dyer
New Hampshire State Rep. Caleb Q. Dyer is the leader of the state’s two-member libertarian caucus at just 21. In fact, he and his fellow caucus member, Joseph Stallcop, are both 21 — and two of the youngest members of the House. Both men were inspired to leave their original political parties due to poor leadership and because of age discrimination.
Before becoming a state representative, Rep. Dyer worked in landscaping and forest management. Being in that industry has allowed him to not only understand New Hampshire values, but also gain real world understanding of the environment. While serving in the New Hampshire House, Rep. Dyer also works as a graphic designer. “… Working with various business owners and startups in New Hampshire I have been able to… help their companies grow and become centerpieces of their communities,” Rep. Dyer said.
We chatted with Rep. Dyer shortly after New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu announced that his state would not be a part of the group of states planning to follow the guidelines of the Paris Climate Accord. The reason for this is that New Hampshire already has high energy prices, with New Hampshire State Director Greg Moore saying doing this deal “will hurt the economy, kill jobs, and drive up energy prices even further on families.”
As a libertarian and a member of the House, Rep. Dyer has a unique perspective on the environmental issues facing New Hampshire, including climate change in a state economy that is reliant on carbon eminent forms of energy. What follows is an edited transcript of Rep. Dyer’s conversation with Planet Forward.
Q: First, what do you think about your governor’s decision to not be a part of the Paris Climate Agreement with states like California and Virginia, etc.?
A: Although I have my disagreements with Gov. Sununu, I actually support that. Since the Paris Accord would focus still more on a lot of economic policy designed to combat climate change. And I don’t really think that New Hampshire is in a position to afford those kinds of additional policies.
A policy that is openly discussed in the Paris Accord is the carbon tax that they wanted to implement, and you know that is going to cost (more) — especially for someone like myself; I heat my house with coal in the winter time. A carbon tax would disproportionately affect people who heat with carbon-based forms…
There are so many things that a carbon tax effects that (it) would make it hard for normal people to live. So, you know there are lots of parts of the Paris Accord that I just really couldn’t get behind… Although I have my disagreements with Trump and I have my disagreements with Sununu, you know this wasn’t one of them.
Q: Federal guidelines, such as the Clean Power Plan (CPP), have good intentions when it comes to saving the environment, but do you believe that the greater federal regulations and lack of free market control outweigh the good intentions?
A: I wish that they would do it in other ways. I think the best way is by tax credits. I think that if you incentivize companies to invest in clean energy by giving them tax credits that they can make use of, that would be the most productive use of policy, at least at the federal level.
Certainly, I think we can have the discussion of tax credits at the state level, but one of the problems that exist is tax credits at both the federal and state level you start to have this disproportionate effect where the government is now starting to pick winners and losers in the market. And by the very nature of you having a tax credit, it’s almost acting as a subsidy to those companies — which is what it is designed to do, but by raising the cost of all the other forms of energy.
As a libertarian, I resist mandates that act as artificial controls in the market. But I understand why they exist, because if they didn’t exist then it would be very likely that New Hampshire would become very reliant on one or two sources of energy, whereas realistically we cannot be so reliant on that. Does it increase cost, yes, it does, but it has some value at least.
Q: What policy can the federal government do that is environmental but libertarian in nature?
A: Tax credits are one thing. The less money that the state takes from companies that are looking to invest in renewable energy is a good thing. Does that mean that I think fossil fuel energy providers should be taxed at a higher rate? Technically yes, but that’s the nature of tax credits. Already the fossil fuel industry has a myriad of tax credits at their disposal that they can use to mitigate their business taxes, and other various taxes that they pay on their property and capital gains. You might as well extend and issue credits to renewable energy companies.
Until we are out of the woods with the federal deficit we are not going to be able to make much headway on things that are important, like enabling investment in renewable energy… If I were to, say, go to Congress and talk to my federal representatives they are all Democrats. And say I want a renewable energy tax credit that’s broad based… they would probably say ‘that sounds like a great idea’ and then go to the Congressional budget office and be very quickly disheartened to learn that they can’t afford to implement these types of credits…
Q: Do you believe actions that help the environment, recycling solar energy, etc., should be voluntary on the individual level, or are they so important that they should be mandatory?
A: Obviously the only way that you can address the issue is to change things that you do in your everyday life, whether or not that’s recycling, making more efficient use of your land, growing your own food, buying less meat. There are so many things you can do in your everyday life that can reduce your carbon footprint that it’s really sad that more people don’t make those choices — but we can’t force them to and we shouldn’t. And the best thing we can do is educate people on what actions can reduce their carbon footprint.