Newt Gingrich debated John KerryJohn Forbes KerryThe Memo: Biden faces balancing act Budowsky: Trump October surprise could devastate GOP Hillicon Valley: Democrats request counterintelligence briefing | New pressure for election funding | Republicans urge retaliation against Chinese hackers MORE yesterday on the environment. Sort of.

It has been an open secret that Newt has always been a green Republican. He never has been as open about his green tendencies as he was yesterday, though. And I think from a practical political perspective, Newt is right.

Most of Big Business has already reached the conclusion that being green sells products. It is more of an attitude than an actual coherent policy perspective, but corporate marketers all understand that it can be easy being green.

Republicans need to embrace Newt’s green views if they want to appeal to younger voters and the Starbucks crowd, i.e., higher-income suburban voters. And they should come up with policies that not only promote responsible environmentalism but also prudent economic policy.

Why can’t we give big economic incentives to Detroit automakers to make more green-friendly cars? This could be a twofer. It could help wean us off of dependence on foreign oil, and maybe it can help American automakers actually make cars that people will buy.

Why can’t we provide some more economic incentives to people to buy longer-lasting light bulbs? That could save energy and save money in the long run, for the government and for taxpayers.

And why can’t we build safer, cheaper and more efficient nuclear power plants? Ultimately, that might be the best way to protect the environment and cut emissions.

Kyoto was a disaster because it was a giveaway to China and India. But if we can use some smart economic incentives at the federal level, we can protect the environment and protect jobs.

Polls have indicated that in the past the environment wasn’t a big issue, especially when compared to war and education. But with all this talk of global warming, I think it will be a big issue, especially with independent voters. If Republicans can get green, they just might appeal again to those independents who ran away from them and vowed never to return.