Roper: Epiphany in Vermont Climate Council: The Climate Action Plan isn’t realistic

By Rob Roper

At the Feb. 16 meeting of the Climate Council’s subcommittee on Cross Sector Mitigation, TJ Poor, an administration appointee to the Council from the Public Service Department, asked the assembled group an awkward if critical question about the thermal sector mandates under the Global Warming Solutions Act.

“We have this 120 thousand goal [of total of homes weatherized by 2030], 90 thousand new in the CAP (Climate Action Plan), and, um, is that even technically possible? … The challenges we’re seeing, is it even time to say, hey, we want to do as much as we can, but we should be realistic here. We’re not going to get 90,000,” he said.

The two principal challenges Poor was referring to are an acute labor shortage and a severe lack of long-term funding.

Sarah Phillips, who runs the state’s Home Weatherization Assistance Program (HWAP), replied to the question, “Can we get it done? Is it realistic? I’m not sure that it is. I think we see it as sort of a moon shot and we’re going for it, but we’ve been honest all along the way that we’re not sure we can accomplish these goals.”

As one of the presenters at the meeting, Philips shared statistics from her organizations work in 2022, which included spending $13 million on weatherization projects. This led to 1033 units weatherized at an average cost of $10,036 per unit. This was 279 weatherization jobs short of HWAP’s goal for the year — a 22 percent shortfall.

Efficiency Vermont also presented statistics on their weatherization work, which amounted to an average of 800 units weatherized annually between 2018 and 2022 (work described as a “high cost, low savings program”). Kelly Lucci of Efficiency Vermont also cited labor issues as a major problem, noting that this was “the first time I’ve seen it this bad across all of the programs. … There’s just a broader dearth of folks in the trades.”

So, between Efficiency Vermont and the Home Weatherization Assistance Program, two of the largest purveyors of this work, less than 2,000 Vermont homes are weatherized each year. In order for the state to meet its mandated goals under the Global Warming Solutions Act, that number has to increase to over 11,000 — which isn’t going to happen because Vermont’s skilled, trained labor force in this sector is already maxed out.

And these are the salad days for these programs with hundreds of millions in federal dollars pouring into Vermont from ARPA and the Inflation Reduction Act. However, this money goes away after 2026, and, as the Council and their guests noted, there is no revenue source currently identified to replace it. There is a cliff after 2026 where the expected annual work output drops by over half.

This is a deadly dangerous scenario our politicians are setting Vermonters up for with the UnAffordable Heat Act (S.5), which just passed out of the Natural Resources & Energy Committee 5-0 and is on its way to the full Senate.

Their logic (highly flawed as it is) is that Vermonters will ultimately save money by transitioning away from fossil fuel heating sources and onto electricity-based alternatives. In order to affect this transition, they plan on jacking up the price of fossil heating fuels through the “carbon credit” system established in S.5, which is a de facto excise tax on oil, propane, natural gas, and kerosene. Estimates of this tax range from 70 cents per gallon to over $4.00, with the higher estimate the more likely. This will, by design, make heating with fossil based fuels unaffordable, hammering low income Vermonters the hardest.

The only chance this scheme could ever have at being successful is if the transition away from fossil fuels occurs broadly, quickly, and efficiently. This is like a statewide energy version of a heart transplant. You’ve got a few minutes to get the old heart out and the new heart in place or the patient will die for lack of oxygen to the vital organs. And, as we have seen above, there is no chance that this transition occurs quickly and efficiently due to the lack of a labor force to do the work required. The old heart will be removed, but no surgeon is on call to put the new one in. The patient will die on the table – or more literally by freezing to death in their home one cold winter night.

What will happen if the UnAffordable Heat Act becomes law is this: Fossil fuel prices will skyrocket as a result of the “carbon credit” mandates. Over three quarters of Vermont homes – the overwhelming majority — currently use fossil fuels for heat. This majority of folks’ heating bills will go through the roof. A few Vermonters will be lucky enough to have the government direct the money taken from fossil fuel heating customers to pay to weatherize their homes, purchase and install a heat-pump system, etc. But most Vermonters will be stuck paying higher fossil fuel heating bills whether they want to or not.

Waiting lists for weatherization and heat pump installation will be years long, and for low-income Vermonters who require subsidies for projects that can routinely cost in excess of $20,000 and $30,000, getting on a waiting list will follow a lengthy and intrusive application process. Who knows how long that will take? Meanwhile, during all this time, those least able to overcome the many obstacles — logistical and financial — to transitioning off fossil fuels will have to shoulder the financial burden of subsidizing everyone else. This is what Vermont’s Director of Equity meant when she pointed out S.5 “doesn’t meet the mark.” This is a cruel, callous, and inhuman policy and the willing lack of forethought that has gone into it should be considered an act of criminal negligence.

But, as Senator Mark MacDonald admitted during debate over S.5, “We don’t do things based on helping poor people. We do things to save the world.” And if Granny has to freeze to death after a last meal of discount cat food to satisfy MacDonald’s and his colleagues’ God complexes, so be it.

Rob Roper is a freelance writer who has been involved with Vermont politics and policy for over 20 years. This article reprinted with permission from Behind the Lines: Rob Roper on Vermont Politics,

Image courtesy of Public domain

5 thoughts on “Roper: Epiphany in Vermont Climate Council: The Climate Action Plan isn’t realistic

  1. Mr. Poor: “We have this 120 thousand goal [of total of homes weatherized by 2030], 90 thousand new in the CAP (Climate Action Plan), and, um, is that even technically possible? … The challenges we’re seeing, is it even time to say, hey, we want to do as much as we can, but we should be realistic here. We’re not going to get 90,000,” he said.

    But that is NOT THE ISSUE.
    That is asking the wrong question, Mr. Poor


    That means, it requires a lot of electricity (which enriches Canadian GMP, but impoverishes all others) to get a certain quantity of Btu from the cold outdoor air into your house.

    Three years ago, I spent $24,000 – $2,400 subsidy from GMP, for three Mitsubishi heat pumps, 24,000 Btu/h each, 6 heads, in my well- insulated/sealed house, to prove to myself just how useless heat pumps are during cold days.

    I do not use them at less than 10F, because my SUPER-CLEAN, highly efficient, propane furnace costs much less PER HOUR than my heat pumps, based on my measured data.

    My ENERGY savings are about $200/y.
    If I amortize my heat pumps, at 5.5% over 15 years, I will have a financial loss of $2,000/y, not counting any service calls and spare parts during those 15 years





    I have about 45 years in the analysis, design and operation of energy systems, plus an MSME and MBA


  2. This reminds me of Aesop’s fable about a wolf who accuses a lamb of polluting a stream. When the lamb says, “It wasn’t me,” the wolf replies: “If it wasn’t you, it was your brother,” and kills him anyway. So, someone who stewards 300 acres of forest land while huddling against the cold with a tiny propane furnace is guilty of changing the climate.

    Like Aesop, the Bible seems to have something for every situation. From Psalm 109 (I suggest people pray the whole thing):

    “For he did not remember to show mercy, but hounded the wretched poor and brought death to the brokenhearted.
    He loved cursing; may it come upon him; he hated blessing; may none come to him.
    May cursing clothe him like a robe; may it enter his belly like water, his bones like oil.
    May it be near as the clothes he wears, as the belt always around him.
    May this be the reward for my accusers from the LORD, for those speaking evil against me.
    But you, LORD, are my Lord, deal kindly with me for your name’s sake; in your great mercy rescue me.
    For I am poor and needy; my heart is pierced within me.
    Like a lengthening shadow I am gone, I am shaken off like the locust.
    My knees totter from fasting; my flesh has wasted away. I have become a mockery to them; when they see me, they shake their heads.
    Help me, LORD, my God; save me in your mercy.
    Make them know this is your hand, that you, LORD, have done this.
    Though they curse, may you bless; arise, shame them, that your servant may rejoice.
    Clothe my accusers with disgrace; make them wear their shame like a mantle.
    I will give fervent thanks to the LORD; before a crowd I will praise him.
    For he stands at the right hand of the poor to save him from those who pass judgment on him.

  3. clue for ya ol mcdonald, without a farm or clue, your not saving the world and you weren’t elected to save the world. If you do want to accomplish something drag your sorry azz over to china and convince them to not build more coal fired plants. When your done there move on to India and do the same. Idiot isn’t strong enough for these loons.

  4. There are some cold soulless people out there. It begins the with the WEFer’s and other such organizations, then trickles doen to the councils, NGO’s, and other such creatures that sit through their zoom sessions bouncing pie in the sky ideas against the spine of the economy middle class folks that carry both the rich and poor on their backs. Finally the unrealistic ideations are pushed through the legislature that hardly skim through the materials set before them to legislate. All in the name of we need to do something, anything to look relevant as a body. The demise of many Vermonter’s will be on your hands in the coming years. Sleep well, however you can.

    • Well Brian killing off mass amounts of carbon based humans is the objective of the WEF We are the carbon they want to reduce. Any one with a functioning brain see the sheep in VT are voting for their own demise.

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