By Rob Roper
Chris Miller, who works on the Social Missions Committee at Ben & Jerry’s, testified to the House Energy and Technology Committee that his company is firmly in favor of the carbon tax bills (H.791/S.284) based on the ESSEX Plan.
Why might the company be for it? Because Ben & Jerry’s, which is owned by the British/Dutch company Unilever, will make out like bandits.
Miller shared estimates that the ice cream manufacturer would receive over $800,000 in electricity subsides if the ESSEX carbon tax were to become law. This he described as “obviously not insignificant.” True enough.
The way the ESSEX carbon tax works is distributors of fossil fuels (gasoline, diesel, heating oil, propane, natural gas, etc.) would pay an excise tax (a cost that will be passed along to customers) into a fund that will be handed over to Vermont’s electricity providers to “reduce” electric rates. Ben & Jerry’s uses a lot of electricity and very little fossil fuels, so they will enjoy all the benefits of the subsidy but bear little burden of the tax. Great for them.
However, as Rep. Robert Forguites, D-Springfield, astutely pointed out, the ESSEX carbon tax does not actually lower the cost of electricity, it merely provides a subsidy that creates the illusion of lower costs — a subsidy that someone has to provide the money to cover.
What is really going on under the ESSEX carbon tax is that other Vermont businesses will be forced to pay $832,000 of Ben & Jerry’s electric bill. Who? Businesses that rely on fossil fuels, such as plumbers, electricians, contractors and other folks who depend on trucks and vans to reach their customers, general stores that heat with oil, and so on. This is an extremely regressive anti-small-business proposition.
Rep. Corey Parent, R-St. Albans, asked if Ben & Jerry’s would end up paying more in taxes through the delivery trucks they use for distribution. Miller pointed out that Ben & Jerry’s does not own its own trucks, they use a third party for distribution — so, no, they would not be paying any tax directly. Nor indirectly, as the companies they pay to move their ice cream around the country are, for the most part, not based in Vermont. Miller said he would be surprised if they would ever buy their fuel in the Green Mountain State. Who would, given an extra 40 cent per gallon carbon tax on diesel?
All this just goes to prove the old adage: A policy that robs Peter to pay Ben & Jerry’s can always count on the support of Ben & Jerry’s.