Four ways Vermont can cut CO2 emissions without a carbon tax

By Guy Page

The Dec.11 Rutland Herald editorial “Classic Conundrum” asks whether Vermont should tax fossil fuels as “the best, most effective way to limit greenhouse gas emissions” or pass because it’s “a tough sell,” especially among low-income rural Vermonters. This kind of win/lose thinking begs for a more positive approach.

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Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership, the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare, and Physicians, Families & Friends for a Better Vermont.

The question seems to assume that for the climate to win, the rural poor must lose. Tough luck indeed for people living in older homes and driving long commutes in all-wheel drive cars and trucks that sacrifice good gas mileage for safe driving on narrow town highways. The policy goal of carbon pricing is to drive Vermonters like sheep to use less fossil fuels by making it harder to stay warm and get to work.

I believe human activity is warming the climate. I believe Vermonters would prefer to do our bit for greenhouse gas reduction without punishing the rural poor. Carbon taxation, even the supposedly poor-friendly version, is regressive, unjust, impractical, and in a voting society, unsustainable. Just look at France — how’s that working out for you, Emmanuel Macron?

Vermont can reduce energy-related emissions and enhance prosperity. To name just four examples of having it both ways, we can support existing regional nuclear power, buy more hydro power from Quebec, slow expansion of instate solar/wind  generation and utility-scale expensive battery storage, and grow more trees.

The 2019 Vermont Legislature could endorse Gov. Phil Scott’s August 2018 support (with four other governors) of nuclear power as an affordable, emissions-free source of regional energy security. In 2017 Millstone in Connecticut and Seabrook in New Hampshire generated 26,000 giga-watt hours of electricity – four times the 6,500 giga-watt hours for all New England grid-tied solar and wind power combined. Yet nuclear power is at risk because natural gas can make power even more cheaply. But natural gas supply is finite, especially when more is needed to keep homes warm during cold snaps. Nuclear is New England’s best environmental and economic alternative to dirty, expensive “backup” coal and oil-fired electricity. Grid operator ISO-New England is deciding now which fuels best suit future energy security needs. Legislators may either promote nuclear power or accept responsibility for higher energy costs, carbon emissions and (more likely to occur) blackouts.

Second, Vermont can rethink its fixation on localvore electricity and buy more low-cost, low-carbon hydro power from Quebec. This may require a new high-voltage transmission line directly from Quebec, or through another state.

Third, Vermont can refuse to keep bidding up the bad poker hand it has been dealt by the backers of distributed renewable power. Utilities want to “double down” on expensive instate intermittent solar/wind power and charge more for even more expensive “back up” battery storage. Fortunately, utility rate hikes require Vermont Public Utilities Commission. Until battery storage technology becomes a card worth playing, regulators should resist upping the ante.

Fourth, rather than  spend money storing electricity in more batteries, Vermont should make money by storing carbon in more trees. Trees eat carbon and turn it into oxygen. They have financial value for “carbon storage,” as the Nature Conservancy discovered in July when it reaped up to $2 million over 10 years by selling the carbon credits from 11,000 acres on Burnt Mountain in the Northeast Kingdom to the climate conscious prone State of California.

It just so happens that many cash-poor rural Vermonters are tree-rich. Some enviro-entrepreneur could do well by doing good by turning the Back Forty’s carbon-eating value into cash for thousands of Vermont homeowners. Vermont could become a state where money grows on trees. And because young, growing trees (like people) need to eat more than their elders, carbon-credit forestry could actually favor acreage under active harvesting and replanting. To paraphrase Sarah Palin: Plant, baby, plant!

These are just four ideas. Rather than impose a Macron-like carbon tax, the state of Vermont should pursue low-carbon prosperity. For starters, the Legislature and Vermont media might ask Vermonters, what’s a better way to reduce carbon than taxing Vermonters? There’s still time, before the Yellow Vests start appearing in the Vermont State House.

Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.

Images courtesy of Flickr/401kcalculator.org and Page Communications
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11 thoughts on “Four ways Vermont can cut CO2 emissions without a carbon tax

  1. Guy, please read Gregory Writestone’s
    “Inconvenient Facts: The science that Al Gore doesn’t want you to know”. It’s available at Amazon. Alternatively, you can borrow my copy.

    1. You’ll learn why CO2 is not a pollutant and why we do not want to reduce the CO2 concentration of our atmosphere, even if we could. In fact, we’re now so low by comparison (400 ppm), we’re very much closer to the 150 ppm lethality level for plants (and, therefore animals) than at other times in the earth’s history. CO2 is plant food! Higher CO2 levels than we have now have been the rule for much of our earth’s history, times of abundant plant health and productivity, which corresponds to animal health, wellness and feeding more people. During those times of very high CO2 concentrations man’s only contribution to atmospheric warming was by being alive, the heat radiating from the human body, by exhaling, and by making fire for cooking and heating. Those high levels happened without us!

    2. The overwhelmingly greatest “greenhouse gas” in our atmosphere is water vapor! Water Vapor’s contribution to global warming is 90% vs 4% for CO2. For perspective, CO2 is only 0.04% of our atmosphere! It has been estimated that the “solutions” to global warming proposed by the Paris agreement would cost the people of the world $100 trillion in lost wealth by 2100. According to Lomborg (2016) that $100 trillion would decrease global temperatures by one sixth of one degree Celsius (0.31 degrees F) !

    Further, we can’t change the concentrations of water vapor in the atmosphere, which vary greatly from one location to another.

    Read Wrightstone’s book! I haven’t shared past page 10 here of this easy reading 128 page book explaining 60 “Inconvenient Facts” Al Gore certainly does not want you to know! !to
    You’ll get answers, information, and Perspective!

  2. The “carbon tax” was never intended to reduce “carbon”, it’s a huge transfer payment opportunity cloaked in “saving the planet” socio political speak. Carbon is not pollution, it is life sustaining. 95% of the CO2 put into the atmosphere annually is from natural sources like forests and the oceans. The remainder is human produced, but the fraction of a fraction reduction in human created CO2 that is “urgently needed” to save us from ourselves is a rounding error on a rounding error. If enacted . Vermont could stop every human CO2 generating activity by its humans, including exhaling, and it would never be noticed in global measurements. And before you hound me that we are not doing our part to solve a “catastrophe” in the making, we already have a catastrophe that is 100% created by Vermonters and we can’t get the state to fulfill its commitment to fund the reduction in nutrient pollution into our most critical resource, our freshwater streams, rivers, ponds and lakes. That is a true disaster we must address before we do anything about a global non issue like “carbon pollution”.

  3. When I lived in VT I had ~75 acres. I sure might of stuck around if I was given a carbon credit for all the trees I didn’t cut down and sell for lumber.

    Perhaps the author can explain why he thinks CO2 is the climate control nob?

  4. And why couldn’t the VT Forest and Parks folks sell carbon credits on thousands of State Parks acreage to California?

  5. The Spendocrats in Montpeculiar, ONLY think with OUR wallets!! If there are $$$$ to be found, they will find AND SPEND them.

  6. Love idea number four of selling the carbon credits on our trees, but unless Montpelier can figure out a way to dip their greedy hands into the till it is unlikely they will support it.
    Another means of reducing carbon in Vermont is to stop relying upon and supporting the tourist industry. Millions of tourist related cars pouring into Vermont and New Hampshire isn’t helping the problem. If they are really determined to have a carbon tax then do it as toll booths on 91 and 89 right at the borders. Most people have no idea of the carbon impact of the ski areas for snowmaking alone!

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