A bill assigned to the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy seeks to make green energy and lifestyle adaption no longer a feel-good policy recommendation but rather a mandate that would see state enforcement of green requirements.
The original language of S.173 — titled the “Vermont Global Warming Solutions Act” — listed recommendations for how Vermont might attempt to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from within the geographical boundaries of the state. A newly marked-up version of the bill turns those recommendations into enforceable mandates.
On page 2 of the bill, lawmakers revised “Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goals” to “Greenhouse Gas Reduction Requirements.”
Another newly worded section now reads, “The State shall reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from within the geographical boundaries of the State and those emissions outside the boundaries of the State that are caused by the use of energy in Vermont.”
The mandated targets include a 25 percent reduction by 2025, a 50 percent reduction by 2035, a 60 percent reduction by 2045 and a 75 percent reduction by 2050.
The bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Alison Clarkson, D-Windsor, told True North in an interview Sunday that the purpose of the revisions is to transform goals into state policy.
“It takes out climate change goals and makes them requirements for how we do business in the state,” she said. “It really helps anchor them in reality. This is very similar to what has happened in Massachusetts.
“So now what the expectation would be is that every department and every agency would use these goals as a way that they do business and make choices for how they contract. To me, this is about saving Vermont as we know it and saving Vermont business as we know it.”
Clarkson said Vermont weather has changed over the years due to human activity.
“Anybody who’s lived here notices that we’re getting heavier, wetter snow — we’re getting more damaging ice storms,” she said. “And as air goes over warmer and warmer water it picks up more and more moisture and it dumps it on us. And depending on the season, it can be torrential rain, it can be damaging ice storms.”
Clarkson added Vermonters should be ready to adopt renewable energy technologies, such as electric cars, that cost more than their conventional counterparts. She added that she wants her Republican colleagues to join the effort.
“If Teddy Roosevelt were here today he would be leading this charge, and he was one of our most ardent Republicans,” she said. “I think we all need to be open to changing our economy in ways that serve us for the future and help enable our survival.”
Not everyone agrees with the aims of the bill.
Hardwick Electric Department manager Mike Sullivan says aggressive renewable energy mandates will hurt the economy.
“Pushing concepts and ideas forward without a focus on fiscal responsibility and without a clear, logical, workable plan in place will drive up the costs of energy,” he told True North in an email.
He said a typical developer-sized net metering solar project generates power at about 17 cents per kilowatt-hour, whereas the town of Hardwick is producing its own solar power at just 9 cents per kilowatt-hour.
“So this begs the questions of why do we have developer-sized projects and why do we value their solar energy at almost 200 percent of a comparable utility project?” he said. “Solar net metering was an idea — not a fiscally responsible well thought out, logical, or clear plan — and it is, in fact, already pushing Vermont’s electric utilities to increase rates.”
He added that Vermont’s impact on global CO2 levels is simply to small to warrant an overhaul of the state’s economy and energy policies.
“It is worth noting that Vermont creates about 0.01 percent of the total carbon emissions in the US, and has the least per capita energy use of any state in the country,” he wrote. “With these facts in mind one must wonder if each of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on renewable energy in Vermont have all been spent prudently.”
Not all scientists agree the world is facing a severe threat from man-made carbon emissions. Last week, more than 500 scientists and professionals sent a letter to the United Nations saying “there is no climate emergency,” and they called for a more balanced debate on the subject.
“Climate science should be less political, while climate policies should be more scientific,” their letter reads. “Scientists should openly address the uncertainties and exaggerations in their predictions of global warming, while politicians should dispassionately count the real benefits as well as the imagined costs of adaptation to global warming, and the real costs as well as the imagined benefits of mitigation.”
The new language of S.173 has caused critics to sound the alarm on a coming “green police state” in which citizens face penalties for failing to comply with state standards.
That concern echoes a now-infamous Audi commercial in which citizens get arrested for using plastic bags, throwing away batteries, using incandescent light bulbs and using hot water in hot tubs.