McClaughry: GWSA is the worst democracy-shredding bill in 50 years

By John McClaughry

Over the past 50 years I have seen a lot of bills introduced into the Vermont Legislature. Of all the bills over all those years, the absolute worst was just introduced in the House, with 87 co-sponsors (all Democratic and Progressive). It’s titled the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA, H.688).

The Climate Action Coalition believes that the planet faces a “climate emergency” due to human-caused carbon dioxide emissions. Every year for the past five years its dozens of lobbyists have labored to persuade the legislators to take bold and far-reaching steps to drive down those emissions.

The centerpiece of those efforts has been a carbon tax. The argument has three components. First, we must drive down the use of carbon-based fuels by Vermonters using heating oil, natural gas, gasoline, diesel and propane.

John McClaughry

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Second, taxation is the best means for accomplishing “decarbonization” because it will make those fuels more expensive. As those fuels become more unaffordable to more and more people and businesses, they will improve their fuel use efficiency, switch to some other energy source, or make lifestyle changes.

Third, the revenues from the increasingly punitive carbon tax can be used by the state to subsidize climate-friendly practices such as home weatherization, heat pumps, public buses, commuter rail and electric vehicles.

The net effect of this program would be the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars from people and businesses (plus schools, hospitals and governments) that use heating oil, gasoline, diesel fuel, natural gas and propane, to the favored people who weatherize their homes, use public transportation, drive electric vehicles and install solar panels.

Will all this help defeat the “climate emergency”? Not detectably, of course, but it would be a virtue signal to the rest of the world: “Brave Little Vermont! We have the courage to beggar our own people to battle the Menace of Climate Change!”

For five years, however, the Climate Action advocates have failed to find the votes, even in this green-friendly Legislature, to enact even the beginning stages of a carbon tax. So here comes their plan B: The Global Warming Solutions Act.

Fourteen years ago the Legislature, with little dissent, adopted goals for reducing emissions from burning carbon-based fuels. But far from reducing emissions below the 1990 baseline, Vermont’s emissions are now 16 percent above that baseline. Emergency!

Since there aren’t enough votes for a carbon tax, the GWSA would replace the 2006 “goals” with much stricter mandatory requirements, create a 21-member climate action super-government (the Climate Council, controlled by legislative leaders), task it with developing a sweeping plan to regulate anything and everything that might reduce CO2 emissions, implement the plan with state agency rules backed by penalties, authorize the Conservation Law Foundation to bring suits to get judges to order the rule-making agencies to move faster and further to save the planet from the “climate emergency,” and use tax dollars to pay the plaintiff’s legal costs if it “substantially prevails” in a courtroom.

Two things are perfectly clear here: The bureaucrats can’t levy a carbon tax, but the scope of rules they may find essential to defeating “climate change” is unlimited. After all, this is an “emergency”!

And most importantly — read this carefully — no legislator will ever vote on wave after wave of sweeping rules that will affect the lives of every Vermonter.

The Global Warming Solutions Act would simply bestow on state bureaucrats the power to force Vermonters to submit to an endless list of expensive and invasive rules to comply with the arbitrary emissions goals, and eliminate any shred of our elected representatives’ accountability for those actions.

Its passage would be a giant step toward unaccountable rule by arbitrary decree that would have astonished and alarmed 200 years of Vermont governors and legislators faithful to our constitution’s requirement that our government must always, in a legal way, remain accountable to the people.

Add to the utter lack of accountability, and the cost of the army of regulators and enforcers needed to carry out The Plan, and the invitation to Conservation Law Foundation and others to sue the state to force quicker and more far-reaching oppression (as CLF did under a similar statute in Massachusetts), and you have a Green Police State, financed by the victims.

That’s why I label the Global Warming Solutions Act the worst piece of legislation I have seen in 50 years. It’s not just foolish, and costly, and invasive — it is, by design and intent, an abandonment of accountability of our democratically elected representatives who, the constitution reminds us, are the trustees and servants of the people, and of their liberties.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Images courtesy of Public domain and John McClaughry

20 thoughts on “McClaughry: GWSA is the worst democracy-shredding bill in 50 years

  1. The totalitarian emphasis of people managment has been “tolerated “ by Vermonters perhaps unwittingly, but nonetheless not firmly rejected. Shame on us! We voters, who have been educated, even brow beaten by our departments and agencies and smothered in lobbied self interest. Eduction has always been a cherished commodity here in Vermont, recognize how we authorized temporary students in our unbiased educational systems to acquire voters rights equal to full time Vermonters. And of course, where they are educated with the citizens of Vermont best interest, knowing most will leave, never achieving or experiencing the realization of their indoctrinated minds —- voting consequent. Our AGENCIES are accountable to lobbies not Vermonters.The special interest, of some minority ideology or not, are easily steered, played, manipulated and bent towards self preservation by stealth coercion, but today very overt its in your face. And they will denigrate us if dare to disagree. The voters of Vermont have accepted higher education as their friend. But those college kids who could now vote because we lowered the voting age 18 projected to go to 16 in do course because we were to conservative for the communist move on Vermont. . OH, and because folks are catching on to how our college life has changed minds with Mali’s towards constitutional governance. These then new voters have been and are isolated in college education training camps. They are taught to ignore the real facts of socialism, shown one side of nirvana, while we eat ourselves in misinformation provided by the entrusted ones. The college elite. How else can we explain why we tolerated a captive malleable skull full of mush to believe socialism is nirvana.
    An interesting note, Venezuela citizens are beginning to visit college campuses to shed full light on their escape from their country’s totalitarian socialism experiment failure. Wonder if they will be shouted down too! Remember Middlebury, how embarrassing! You blue dogs should be shamed, we conservatives didn’t want to make to big a scene and tolerated small changes we should be shamed. Now choices are limited but it darn sure isn’t the likes of Bernie and it sure isn’t an Al GORE CARBON TAX OF SOCIAL CAPITALISM FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE.

  2. The way this is going, pretty soon we will all be required to have catalytic converters attached to our borders…
    Also, I wonder if these democratic and progressives would all still vote party line if they use secret ballot. I very much doubt it.

  3. Imagine if we cut way back on useful energy, especially petroleum. Farmers use 1/5 the fuel
    Food processors use 1/5 the energy, Trucks drive only once a week, families can’t drive to work, so they try to get along doing chores in their neighborhoods – for others who also have little productivity or money.

    Most of all – Imagine your grocery store, fresh produce for 4 months max, meat only from neighbor farms, Milk, eggs, feed for animals, tractors, trucks, refrigeration all become a rare luxury available mostly to the elite..

    Without the productivity and affordability of good reliable energy – no amount of paper money will buy you what you enjoy today.

  4. Comment and all you want but until the voters realize that this is a scam brought on by out of state money (that buys legislator’s votes), the naked push for the socialist ideology, a legislature full of transplants and flatlanders and the money grab bag for those in the climate change industry, nothing will change. Couple that with two powerful counties (Washington and Chittendon) controlling 1/3 of the senate and this is what they deserve. Vote for the devil and live buys he’s rules. I say the devil because free people should not be ruled they should be represented. We don’t work for them!

  5. The Vermont and U.S. Constitutions, and the democratic processes they were designed to protect, are in the way of this totalitarian power-grab. Using fear at every turn — fear of guns, fear of climate, fear of Trump — the Vermont progressives have shifted many voters’ eyes away from the real threats they should consider — fear of socialist rule (Mao, Putin, etc.); fear of economic decay; fear of inflation and fiscal collapse. Those very real and looming threats have been swept under the “climate emergency” boondoggle, supported by massive infusions of out-of-state money by those who will profit by imposing their rule through progressive lackeys like David Zuckerman. And all of this is done INSTEAD of implementing actual pollution-reducing policies. They want TAXES and POWER, and will use the children and Green Mountains as cloak to steel. Wake up, folks!

    • John Klar,

      Dem/Progs want absolute control of the Vermont economy and absolute power, unfettered by people or Constitution, to implement their socialist/communist visions a la Dem/Prog

  6. GWSA means implementing the VT Comprehensive Energy Plan, which is a pure fantasy, put together by people who have not a clue regarding energy systems. I wrote this at least 6 years ago.

    The implementation capital cost would be in excess of $1.0 BILLION PER YEAR FOR AT LEAST 33 YEARS, according to the Energy Action Network annual report.

    Here is and example:

    The Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan, CEP, has a goal to install about 35,000 air source heat pumps, ASHPs, by 2025, and projects:

    About 63% of building space heating* and domestic hot water, DHW, from renewable electricity (wind, solar, hydro, biomass, etc.)
    About 34% of building space heating and DHW, from wood burning (cordwood/pellet) and bio liquids.
    About 3% of building space heating and DHW, from fossil fuels burning.

    This article, based on the CADMUS survey, shows Vermont free-standing houses with air source heat pumps, ASHPs, would continue to have about 60% of space heating from traditional systems and about 40% from ASHPs.

    That means the CEP goals could not be implemented, unless almost 88% of those houses would have major energy retrofits to reduce the space heating to less than 15.0 Btu/h/ft2, at 65F indoor and -10F outdoor.

    Domestic hot water is a separate issue, because ASHPs for space heating typically do not produce DHW.

  7. John, after so many years close to the politics of the state, you must just be amazed at what Vermont has become. Someday, someone will do the research and write a book on how it got there, but it is now what it has become.
    What it has become is a state controlled by a new type of group political philosophy which I call “Universal Socialism”.
    Universal Socialists do not believe in borders. They believe that one solution for any issue fits all across villages, towns, states and countries. This Universal Socialist world view obviously negates most local control with the exception of taxation (which they like a lot).
    Universal Socialists believe that whatever they put their mind to, they are mystically correct. If this had a basis of fact or history, it could be debatable. However, it is more “of the moment belief, sans foundation. And, then, their moral equivalent is simply “situational ethics” or again, whatever seems to be the flavor of the day, that day. They believe they are the smartest people in the room.
    Universal Socialists do not consider (or seem to care much about) unintended consequences. For them the philosophy of the thing is enough. In their mind any negative later issues will be OK and mitigated somehow.
    Universal Socialists believe “Committees” can run everything. GWSA is merely a starter.
    Universal Socialists love Bernie Sanders. They are his children and he is their Guru. He excites their political libido and inspires them to action of all kinds, needed or not. He offers an amazing new world to them but offers no intelligent, doable way to get there. Universal Socialists accept that as OK because it will happen when the top earners in the world magically pay for it all.
    Who these Universal Socialists are is for another post, but most are reasonably good people that somehow superglued rose-colored Bernie glasses on their faces that are so close to their brain that they jumble up intelligent consequential thought.

    • Benj. Franklin recognized that any government of and by ‘the people’ will be only as good as ‘the people’ are in said government. There are no guarantees.

      “In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other.”

      Others have recognized and articulated the conundrum since then.

      “Liberty is a different kind of pain from prison.” T. S. Eliot

      “Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.” George Bernard Shaw

      None the less, I prefer ‘Liberty’.

      • I as well opt for Liberty. I agree with your comment on Article 9 of the Vermont Constitution. I would add that every year the legislature should be required by law to spend 1/2 of it’s time verifying that past bills have factually met the intent of Article 9. When one does not, it should be summarily repealed.

  8. What’s missing here, of course, is the guaranty by these Democrat/Progressives that their policies will work. As Article 9 of the Vermont Constitution provides: “….previous to any law being made to raise a tax, the purpose for which it is to be raised ought to appear evident to the Legislature to be of more service to community than the money would be if not collected.”

    These politicians (those who vote for the provisions) should be forced to provide a personal bond, the same way many of us in the private sector do, payable to the taxpayers if their policies don’t meet the Article 9 criteria.

  9. The founder of the weather channel has said that global warming is the biggest hoax ever perpetrated on mankind. The cofounder of Greenpeace has said that global warming is a huge hoax. 500 scientists from all over the world have sent a letter to the UN saying there is no climate crisis and asked for a debate in January of this year, with the UN IPCC, This is not settled science, and until it is, there should be no rules or taxes placed on the poor citizens of this state, until it is settled.

    • It’s not that the planet is or isn’t getting warmer. For the record, as I write this missive, there are robins outside my window – January 27th, 2020, in Vermont.

      The real hoax is perpetrated by those telling us they know how to control the climate and that we should pay them to do so.

  10. This, without any doubt, is a major ploy to impose CARBON TAXES on everything.
    Total Vermonters’ subjugation to additional hordes of unelected bureaucrats making rules and regulations.
    They say: “jump”, and you are demanded to say: “how high”.

    Mostly Dem/Prog politicians want to impose a CARBON TAX on fuel oil.
    They claim it would fight climate change, save the world, etc.

    All of a sudden there would be a sizable pot of money to…. pay off state debt? Oh, no!
    They are eager to distribute the money among government energy programs that serve mostly Dem/Prog voters.

    All sorts of pressure groups would be gorging at the trough to get to the “free” money.

  11. Just another ” The sky is falling ” boondoggle !!

    Be it Al ” Lear Jet ” Gore or Greta ” How Dare You ” Thunberg, pushing a hoax
    and now the Legislators in Vermont again we want to show ” the world ” we were
    first, but it will be first in stupidity !!

    How about fixing the States Tax & Debt and Liabilities problems, now that really
    affects Vermonters…… Wake up, people.

  12. There should be an amendment to the State’s Constitution that Vermonters cannot be forced to adhere to any rules or regulatory demands that haven’t been directly voted into law by the legislature. Such regulations not directly voted into law may be enjoyed by VT citizens on a voluntary basis. Non participants cannot be penalized for their choice.
    Otherwise, allowing any group outside the elected officials of the state to set regulations and exact punishments for non-compliance to such regulations is tantamount to unleashing a totalitarian virus in the state government. Undoubtably, the politicos who sign on to this partnership with the GWSA won’t survive in office once their voters realize the extents and proportions of TCI.

    • Each year a a Senator I sponsored (alone) the Regulatory Accountability Act, whereby 1/5 of House or Senate could put an agency rule up for an up or down vote. My fellow legislators wanted no part of that responsibility, which is a very sad commentary on the deterioration of this independent Republic.

  13. GWSA???? You guy are nuts!!! Get off it already and do what you’ve been elected and paid with tax player’s hard earned money to do – THE PEOPLES BUSINESS!!!! TAXES, DECLINING EDUCATION STANDARDS, YOUNG FOLKS LEAVING, UNDER FUNDED PENSIONS for openers. Does anyone blame me for being discusted????

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