Bucknam: The perfect storm

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Deborah Bucknam, a St. Johnsbury-based attorney and the vice chair of the Vermont Republican Party.

Do you remember the recent hurricane that decimated 1,000 square miles of New England forest and destroyed most of Vermont’s sugar maples? Or the recent wild fires that destroyed nine towns in the state of Maine and scorched over 200,000 acres? Or the Great New England drought — the worst in recorded history?

For most of us, of course not. The hurricane occurred in 1938, the Maine fires in 1947, and the New England drought in the mid 1960s — long before climate change was an issue.

These anecdotes, of course, prove nothing about climate change and its correlation to extreme weather events — just like Tropical Storm Irene proved nothing about the topic in 2011, despite the claims from politicians. But the data reveal that extreme weather events are not increasing in our region. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has calculated that since 1887, the upward trend of frequency of hurricanes “is not significantly distinguishable from zero.” In other words, there has been no increase in the frequency of hurricanes for the last 135 years.

Michael Bielawski/TNR

St. Johnsbury-based attorney Deborah Bucknam

What about flooding? The University of New Hampshire Sustainability Institute, in a study of Northern New Hampshire precipitation, found little to no measured increased heavy precipitation events — characterized as over 4 inches in a 48 hour period — in three out of four weather stations monitored from 1963 to the present.

Drought? New England has not suffered a major drought for over a half century.

Yet, the Transportation and Climate Initiative in the Northeast Region (TCI), of which Vermont is a signatory, states the following in the first clause in its memorandum of understanding: “Climate change has resulted in the increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events that have adversely impacted [the Northeast Region].”

There is nothing in the memorandum to support this statement. There is nothing on the initiative’s website to support the statement either.

Yet this claim is used as a tool to promote a drastic re-ordering of our Northeast transportation system, which will include a complex set of regulations that will result in as much as a 17 cent per gallon increase in gasoline and diesel fuel.

This translates to an estimated $50 million dollar annual increase in transportation costs to Vermonters. The extra cost will be taken from Vermonters and “invested” by the government into Most Favored Lobbyists’ industry coffers, after skimming “costs” of administering the new regulations.

This new expense will be borne disproportionately by low income and middle class Vermonters who depend on transportation to get their kids to school, to travel to work, shop for groceries or go to the doctor. Rural Vermont will be hit the hardest.

Others who can little afford such increases will also be affected. Farmers depend on diesel fuel for everything from tractors to feed delivery to transportation for their milk. Increased costs for famers will inevitably be passed on to the farm products consumers, namely every Vermonter. If the farmers cannot pass on the cost, or absorb it, more Vermont farms will shut down, accelerating an already disturbing trend across the state.

Loggers depend heavily on diesel fuel for their business. This low margin industry will be damaged further by higher fuel costs.

Vermont’s large school busses depend almost entirely on diesel fuel. Local school boards — and their taxpayers — especially in rural districts, will bear the burden of increased fuel costs. 

All other commercial transportation, from foodstuffs to clothing to industrial and commercial supplies, will be hit with higher costs. Every item we buy in Vermont was transported to the consumer at some point. These additional costs will be borne by each and every Vermonter. 

Who benefits? Certainly not the environment, unless one believes that hollowing out Vermont’s rural landscape helps the environment. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, tiny Vermont is already, compared to the other 50 states, 43rd in energy consumption per capita, despite its cold winters and rural population. Yet, it is 13th per capita in energy expenditures. We are already doing our part, and further reduction in diesel and gasoline use will have statistically no effect on global warming. The real beneficiaries of this scheme to tax Vermonters for their fuel use are the rich and powerful. State government, with an annual budget totaling over 1.5 billion and a workforce of over 8,000, will grow bigger, administering complex regulations proposed by the initiative. As night follows day, the additional funds generated by this scheme will be used to subsidize government favored groups — namely the powerful and well connected. 

In addition, these subsidies will benefit those rich enough to afford an electric passenger car — all other Vermont vehicle owners, including those who drive trucks, busses and minivans, will be paying for those rich folks’ luxury cars. 

This is the perfect storm. The powerful and well connected have made questionable claims to support a scheme to increase their power and wealth at the expense of the rest of Vermonters. 

The solution? Vermonters can counter the perfect storm by letting their legislators and governor know that the TCI is a boondoggle Vermonters cannot afford. 

Images courtesy of Public domain and Michael Bielawski/TNR

7 thoughts on “Bucknam: The perfect storm

  1. “TCI will distribute a FRACTION of the allowances revenues to states?”

    After paying exorbitant salaries and expenses to the organization of wise people thinking up and administering this cumbersome TCI scheme, what happens to the fraction, after excessive expenses, that is NOT distributed to states?

    This looks to me like another costly boondoggle about to go viral.

    The TCI scheme is wide open to fraud, waste and abuse, as there will be minimal to no meaningful oversight, other than by insiders who agree to the TCI agenda, i.e., the fox guarding the hen house!!!

    TCI will become a proxy CARBON TAX collector for states, AT A FAT FEE. Vermont needs that like another hole in the head!
    Legislators in each state do not have to vote for much-hated CARBON TAXES, which would be increasing each year, until we all croak.

    They would be “off the hook”. They would say: “I know you pay more taxes, but it is not my fault, and re-elect me anyway. Bull manure!

    Legislators of each state should be ashamed to allow a large amount of CARBON TAX money being mis-appropriated by a “super-state” entity over which they likely would have minimal or no control. Another autonomous/out-of-control Big Brother Entity.

    Analysis shows the new CARBON taxes would add up to about $56 BILLION, due to fuel dealers buying allowances over 10 years, to reduce CO2 by an additional 1% to 6%, above what would be reduced by EXISTING policies.

    TCI is legal? ….. it is robbery developed by politicians who need funding for more untested, unproven “programs” that would further increase Vermont State government budgets, i.e., INCREASE the tax burden on hard-working Vermonters..

    TCI is not serious about dealing with the issue of climate. Airline travel is FAR worse.
    There are about 20,000 commercial jetliners in the air.
    All burn a large quantity of DIRTY jet fuel
    Airline travel climate impact is a factor 6 to 47 greater than the impact from car travel, because its CO2 and particulate pollution is released in the UPPER atmosphere.

    Raising gas prices in tiny Vermont will have ZERO effect on global warming, but it provides lots of “feel good” to Volvo Democrats people.

    As for the people who cannot afford higher fuel prices…….. well, they can take the bus.

    How are these $350,000 electric buses working out?

    And no one seems to mention that increasing the price of fuel will increase the price of everything else – your groceries come on a truck.

    And for all you people who voted for the current Dem/Prog legislators because you hate Trump, ponder that vote when you’re gassing up and when you will be in the voting booth in November; JUST VOTE NO.

  2. This recent study in Finland shows CO2 has minimal effect on climate and global warming.

    https://arxiv.org/pdf/1907.00165.pdf

    “In this paper we will prove that GCM-models used in IPCC report AR5 fail to calculate the influences of the low cloud cover changes on the global temperature.

    That is why those models give a very small natural temperature change leaving a very large change for the contribution of the green house gases in the observed temperature.

    This is the reason why IPCC has to use a very large sensitivity to compensate a too small natural component.

    Further, they have to leave out the strong negative feedback, due to the clouds, in order to magnify the sensitivity.

    In addition, this paper proves that the changes in the low cloud cover fraction practically control the global temperature.

  3. Debbie, You are right on. If there is a way to soak the folks using the funds to add more useless beauricrats, they’ll ll find a way. Let’s head Gov. Scott’s advise and deal with issues that must be top priority and not waste time on things we would like to do.

  4. There are not many people in Vermont and Maine who can afford a $40,000, compact, AWD, gasoline, sedan, or an equivalent EV.

    However, Mr. Schubert, a recently retired, latte/croissant-type, Vermont businessman, obviously much better off than the average Vermonter, has decided to do some virtue signaling.

    The compact Tesla Model 3, AWD, would have a range of about 325 miles, the compact gasoline sedan, AWD, about 500 miles
    The Tesla Model 3 would cost about $58,000, incl. VT sales tax, destination charge, at home Level-2 charger, etc., the compact gasoline sedan about $30,000

    NO REDUCTION IN CO2
    Several studies have shown, the lifetime CO2 emissions of an all-electric, AWD, compact sedan, such as a Tesla Model 3, is about the same as of a gasoline, AWD, 30 mpg, compact sedan, cradle to grave, both driven 150,000 miles.

    One has to be a masochist to put up with the winter shortcomings of an EV; shorter range (due to cold weather, use of heater, and use of heated seats), higher kWh/mile, slow uphill on cold days, and much less range, etc.
    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/electric-cars-lose-range-during-hot-and-cold-weather

    One has to be an economic moron to choose a Tesla Model 3 sedan over a compact gasoline sedan, unless you have plenty of money and want to do virtue signaling.

    Any subsidies for EVs end up in the pockets of people with incomes in excess of $100,000, such as Mr. Schubert. This is GROSSLY unfair to lower-income people (about 70% of the people of Vermont) and Maine, who have to pay these subsidies and cannot afford to buy any virtue-signaling EVs.

    The travesty of a $7000 federal subsidy for EVs for upscale folks was finally eliminated.
    Vermont and Maine should eliminate its EV subsidies as well.

    How are these $350,000 electric buses doing?

  5. Fact or Fiction…

    In 2004, Michael Crichton wrote the techno-thriller novel, State of Fear, in which eco-terrorists created natural disasters to convince the public of the dangers of global warming, and garner more funding from environmentally minded legislators and the public.

    Whether or not global warming is a factor that can be mitigated by human behavior isn’t the point. It’s all about the money. Carbon credit values are set by local power companies to benefit their profitability. The Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) is the latest scheme to raise an estimated $50 million annual increase in transportation costs…. all controlled by the government and the special interest groups that enable it. Meanwhile, Vermont could purchase inexpensive and sustainable electricity from Hydro Quebec at half the cost of subsidized wind and solar power.

    Reports in VT Digger, for example, cite the current firestorms in Australia, while not reporting the facts that arson and incompetent park land management have had a significant effect on the intensity of the disasters. What’s worse, when commentary to this effect is submitted to Digger, it’s censored.

    Today there is a concerted effort to deceive the public, if not by demagoguing the climate change issue, at the very least by misrepresenting it.

  6. Anyone notice that low end electric vehicles have small diameter wheels and very low ground clearance? These don’t work well in deeper snow, like when VT road crews close down at night time, or haven’t yet plowed where you are headed. The same during mud season on unpaved roads and drives. Who makes a 4 wheel drive electric? I require 4 wheel drive. Loggers won’t pay a carbon tax on fuel used off highway, like in skidders or harvesters. But log trucks will pay the tax. Companies and owner operators of large shipping trucks shouldn’t be penalized because, there are no electric alternatives. The same for contractors with working pickups and medium trucks. If there is no electric alternatives available then there should be no carbon tax for those classes of vehicles. There should be a waiver, also Including 4 wheel drive passenger vehicle owners. Carbon taxes collected in VT should have specific funds to go into; like education, highway and road infrastructure, economic support for elderly retired people whose annual income doesn’t meet a maximum amount, for incentives to companies moving to VT that pay $18/hr plus and only hire Vermonters, economic support to retirement and healthcare homes that includes advanced training of employees, wage increases, facility upgrades. These funds need to be protected from lawmakers, raiding to bail themselves out of poor planning. No TCI taxes should be able to be allocated for anything other than the predetermined funds (each fund with a set percentage of taxes collected and together totalling 100% of the TCI tax). Vermonters aren’t just gonna pay for higher transportation fuel. They’ll pay more for food, home heating, electricity, school taxes, clothing, home maintenance, and every other aspect of living tied to transportation. So, they should directly benefit from TCI’s carbon tax, not special interest groups or Lobbyists. What’s TCI’s plan to help counter the global CO2 from recent volcanic events, tundra thaw, earthquakes, and brush fires? The climate change caucus keeps reminding everyone that this is a global issue, even though history says it hasn’t affected VT. Insightful article Ms. Bucknam. Thanks.

    • BTW, the funds mentioned above are only just for the sake of the comment, to emphasize that taxes collected through the TCI should all, 100%, go to the betterment of the state, for all Vermonters. No special considerations for Burlington or Williston to get more because they are more prosperous and hold more voting power. For example the West side of the state could use a freeway like US 91 on the east side.

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