Roper: Here comes the climate legislation banzai charge

By Rob Roper

Between 2013 and 2018 Vermont’s climate change activists were pushing hard for a statewide carbon tax. The first serious attempt, the VPIRG/REMI version, flamed out after a couple of years when Vermonters decided they didn’t want to pay roughly an extra dollar per gallon for gasoline and home heating fuel. It ended in the blow out election of Gov. Phil Scott, who successfully tagged his opponent, Sue Minter, with the “carbon taxer” label, and the loss of a handful of house seats held by carbon tax advocates.

In 2018 the ESSEX Plan emerged as a supposedly kinder, gentler carbon tax. It lasted about three months into that year’s legislative session before people realized it was basically a wealth transfer from low-income Vermonters to the wealthy. As such, it became totally and deservedly, politically radioactive.

In 2019, all was relatively quiet. Wounds were licked in private. Plans hatched behind the scenes. But no meaningful legislation came up for debate in any meaningful forum. This was the calm before the final storm.

The Climate Strike in September was the opening primal scream in what promises to be an all-in banzai charge to turn Vermont into a Green Police State. WCAX reported that activists and lawmakers from the Climate Solutions Caucus met in Richmond this week to push five — not one, but five — pieces of climate change legislation:

…the Carbon Tax, the Global Warming Solutions Act, the Renewable Electricity Standard, the Energy Efficiency Utility Modernization, and the Transportation and Climate Initiative Authorization. The panel of lawmakers said these are bold pieces of legislation that they feel confident about. (WCAX, 10/3/19)

The Global Warming Solutions Act (S.173) would, in a nutshell, turn Vermont’s CO2 emissions goals into mandates, enforceable through “rules” made not by the legislature, but delegated to the unelected Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources. Those goals currently are that Vermont will be 50% below our 1990 CO2 output level by 2028. As of 2015, with all the Green Initiatives and spending and virtue signaling, 16% above our 1990 level. What kinds of “rules” could possibly reverse this trend? Who knows (we can imagine), but they would have to be pretty severe — hence our description as a Green Police State.

RELATED: Global warming bill would force green policies on Vermonters

For example, they would have to be stringent enough to put 90,000 electric vehicles on Vermont roads by 2025. Keep in mind that the twenty-two years since the introduction of the Prius in 1997, along with all the incentive subsidies for EVs, have resulted in just about 3,000 electric vehicles on Vermont roads today.

The Transportation and Climate Initiative is a regional compact that would, like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (ReGGI) did for power generation, put caps on transportation emissions and anyone exceeding those caps would have to purchase offsets. This would be a nightmare to enforce, and is a carbon tax on gasoline and diesel in disguise. Governor Scott called it as such during his 2016 campaign, but now has his Deputy Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, Peter Walke, out on the PR circuit singing the program’s praises.

The other initiatives are expansions of existing programs, such as larger green energy mandates and expanding the mission of Efficiency Vermont. So, how would you possibly pay for all the programs and subsides necessary to make this happen? Well, you’d need to have a carbon tax, naturally!

All of this is the political equivalent a banzai charge. Frustrated and losing, the carbon tax warriors have come screaming out of their trenches into the streets (literally) in a last ditch, desperate effort to snatch victory from the jaws of repeated defeat. If those on the other end of the charge are demoralized and disorganized, the charge will be successful. But if opponents stand strong, keep their heads, and meet chargers head on … well, let’s just say the strategic use of banzai tactics was the opposite of successful for the Japanese in World War II.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.