Flemming: What Vermont’s lower emissions have cost us

By David Flemming

The rest of the United States still has a long way to go if our fellow Americans are to catch up to us Vermonters. In 2016, Vermont had 9.6 emissions per capita, down from 11.1 in 2000.

That tells a very different story than the one we are often told that “Vermonters are emitting more CO2, and need additional environmental regulations to stop this excess.” It makes much more sense to measure our CO2 in per capita terms than it does in absolute terms because individuals moving away from our state due to a high cost of living will emit more emissions than they do by sticking around here.

While we have been emitting more overall, our population has grown form 597,000 in 2000 to 623,000 in 2016. We already have the seventh lowest emissions per capita, but have one of the slowest growing economies in the country.

As the U.S. economy has been humming along, Vermont has been struggling to reconcile its commitment for ‘reducing CO2 emissions’ with a commitment to a higher standard of living for its residents.

Both Vermont and the U.S. are expected to have lower emissions in the coming decades. If both follow their trends of the past 16 years, America will have per capita emissions equaling Vermont’s 2016 per capita emissions by 2044. And of course, by that point, we can expect Vermont’s emissions to drop even further.

It will be easier for a state like Nebraska to reduce emissions from 25 metric tons per capita (as of 2016) to 15 metric tons per capita, than it will be for Vermont to reduce its emissions from 9.6 metric tons per capita to 0 metric tons. After all, Nebraska saw a net increase in emissions from 24.3 to 25.4 metric tons per capita from 2000 to 2016. In that time frame, Nebraska’s per capita GDP increased $9000 from $42,000 to $53,000.

Meanwhile Vermont’s per capita GDP only increased $6,000 from $38,000 in 2000 to $44,000 in 2016. There is tradeoff between emissions and GDP. Vermont has been taking extreme measures to reduce emissions. It goes without saying that we would need to take absolutely brutal measures on income levels to curb emissions further.

So long as our emissions are inconsequential in the global scheme of things, we ought to feel more of an obligation to raise incomes rather than to reduce emissions.

David Flemming is a policy analyst for the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Jd4508

5 thoughts on “Flemming: What Vermont’s lower emissions have cost us


    Comments Regarding Global Warming SPENDING Act, Stage 1:

    1. The CO2 reduction by 2025 is not just about enlarging state government by adding scores of employees to various state and local governments for managing expanded existing energy programs and adding new energy programs.

    2. The rapid CO2 reduction would be extremely disruptive to ongoing economic activities, i.e., impose significant additional costs (increased taxes and additional subsidies and investments to implement mandates) on the private sector, exactly the opposite of what has been needed for about 2 decades.

    3. The CO2 reduction would require adding several hundred million dollars each year, to state and local government budgets, to:

    – Manage expanded existing programs and implement new ones.
    – Distribute subsidies, mostly to RE entities.
    – Implement regulations and monitor mandated adjustments in lifestyles

    NOTE: The RE sector of the Vermont economy, including government, would be celebrating and enjoying long-term expansion, prosperity and security. All other sectors would be mourning their losses and insecurity, all while climate change continued as usual.

    4. VT CO2 emissions have been increasing during recent years, due to existing government programs, costing money and increasing everyone’s costs, not being effective at decreasing CO2.

    5. Any new government programs, started in haste, would need to immediately reverse the increasing CO2 trend, plus bend the curve down to achieve a lower level, i.e., from about 9.02 million Mt in 2020 to 7.578 million Mt in 2025, a daunting task.

    NOTE: The rapid increase in effectiveness of existing and new programs would happen with essentially the same career-bureaucrats and career-legislators?

    6. Vermont’s CO2 was 10.24 million Mt in 2005, 10.19 million Mt in 2015, and 9.02 million Mt in 2018. The reductions in 2017 and 2018 were mainly due to increased nuclear and hydro purchases by GMP.

    7. The rapid CO2 reduction is no more than wishful dreaming by career-bureaucrats and career-legislators, who want to have a “second go at it”, and “double-down” by spending $400 million/y for each of the next 5 years, plus more per year thereafter.

  2. Here is an example of an ineffectual air source heat pumps program.

    Incompetent Efficiency Vermont, one of the major boosters of ASHPs, claiming $1200 – $1800 per year in savings, was assigned to (mis)manage the ASHP program.

    After many complaints by ASHP owners, actual savings averaged only $200/y, per CADMUS/VT-DPS survey. See URL

    This article shows, an ASHP in an average energy-hog house in VT:

    – Provided the owner energy cost savings of about $200/y. See table 7 and URL of VT-DPS website
    – Required a turnkey capital cost of about $4,500/ASHP; excludes subsidies.
    – Required 2085 kWh/y to displace only 28% of the space heat of the traditional fuels, and reduced CO2 from 25,123 lb/y to 20,129 lb/y, or 20.0%. See table 1 and 6
    – Would require 10,127 kWh/y to displace 100% of space heat of the traditional fuels, and would reduce CO2 from 25,123 lb/y to 8,231 lb/y, or 67.2%. See table 1 and 6.

    NOTE: If the house were highly sealed/highly insulated, the electricity for 100% space heat from ASHPs would be about 3,000 kWh/y

    If the CEP objective is to “get rid of” fossil fuels and reduce CO2, then the use of ASHPs in energy-hog houses in VT, NH, ME, etc., has been an expensive, ineffectual flop.


  3. Here is an example of an ineffectual WEATHER IZING program

    Weatherizing Housing Units Reduces Minimal CO2 at High Cost

    In 2017, about 2012 housing units were weatherized, for about $20 million, about $10,000/unit.
    CO2 reduction about 6 million lb, or 2716 Mt, or $7,271/Mt, which is extremely high. See URL, page 31

    Because these units had a space heat reduction averaging 35%, does not mean they are out of energy-hog territory, i.e., they likely would still be unsuitable for 100% space heat from ASHPs. See table 3.

    The rate of weatherizing is far too slow, and not “deep” enough, for the CEP 63% goal of space heating of all buildings using only ASHPs. See table 3

    New Approach is Needed: It would be unwise to throw more money into the weatherizing folly.
    A new approach, hopefully not involving government and Efficiency Vermont, must be found.

    A major move towards Passivhaus level housing is required.

    1) Entire neighborhoods, with old houses, would need to be leveled for replacement with modern Passivhaus buildings.
    2) A new statewide, enforced, building code is required. See URL.

  4. Great quote from a recent article. THWAP Liberals! “A new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) that tracks carbon emissions worldwide dropped great news for the United States under the leadership of Donald Trump on Tuesday. “The United States saw the largest decline in energy-related CO2 emissions in 2019 on a country basis – a fall of 140 Mt, or 2.9%, to 4.8 Gt. US emissions are now down almost 1 Gt from their peak in the year 2000, the largest absolute decline by any country over that period.”…..Not only is Trump leading the world in economic success but he’s also doing exactly what the climate scolds all claim they want, which is leading the world in energy saving…. the IEA also reported that natural gas is on the rise and coal-powered energy declined by 15% in America. “A 15% reduction in the use of coal for power generation underpinned the decline in overall US emissions in 2019.

  5. Listen to David. FINALLY!!! some one in Montpelier has put the emissions issue in its proper perspective. Time to spend time and money dealing with far more pressing issues.

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