By Rob Roper
As Vermonters struggle to figure out how to re-open our economy in the wake of the COVID-19 shutdown, the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy is taking up the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) — a scheme that essentially would keep many aspects of our economy, those relying on fossil fuels, shut down in perpetuity. If ever there was a wrong time and wrong place for a piece of legislation, this is it.
Basically, what the GWSA would do is empower the Agency of Natural Resources to come up with and enforce “rules” designed to shrink the state’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to specific levels by 2025, 2030, and 2050, regardless of any collateral impacts and consequences. It would work by severely restricting or stopping entirely economic activity that produces GHGs, which is, of course, practically everything.
The big questions Vermonters deserve to have answered before this thing becomes law are: What would rules strict enough to meet the GHG reduction goals actually look like (spoiler alert, they will be draconian), how much would they cost, and what impact would they have on an economy desperately trying to recover from the COVID-19 shutdown? As of now, no formal economic impact analysis or cost assessment has been done.
Here are just a few examples of what kind of rules could ANR be empowered to implement to attain the GHG reduction goals outlined in the bill.
- Ban ATVs, snow machines, pleasure boats, small planes and/or other fossil fuel base recreational vehicles.
- Ban the use of wood stoves, fireplaces (and/or make it illegal to install these in new homes).
- Ban backyard barbeques.
- Ban fossil fuel powered lawn maintenance equipment such as gas powered leaf blowers (they tried this in Illinois).
- Ban the sale of vehicles that don’t meet certain MPG requirements.
- Ban the burning of yard waste.
- Ban the purchase of fossil fuel based heating systems for new or renovated homes.
- Require businesses and/or homeowners to purchase and install certain equipment to obtain licenses or permits.
- Ban fossil fuel intensive entertainment events, such as racing at Thunder Road.
Use your imagination and you can probably come up with more.
When the House Committee on Natural Resources and Energy debated this bill back in February, members asked some young witnesses how much economic “chaos” — their word — they would be willing to tolerate in order to bring about the goals of the GWSA. Needless to say, more economic chaos is the last thing Vermont and Vermonters need right now and in the foreseeable future — a point that seems lost on our elected officials.