By Don Keelan
Who expected the giving season to come in November rather than December? More surprising is the giver, the Governor’s Offices of Massachusetts and Connecticut. What a wonderful present, especially to those of us who are fossil fuels users.
On Nov. 15, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat, and his Massachusetts neighbor Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, announced their states were pulling out of the 12-state TCI Agreement.
For those unfamiliar with the acronym TCI, it stands for Transportation and Climate Initiative, a euphemism if there ever was one for charging fossil fuel dealers within a 12-state area an additional 10 cents a gallon. And we are all aware that once an assessment is on the books, there is no limit to how high it might go.
Two years ago, those who were dead-set against fossil fuels for transportation and eventually home-heating and cooking oil pushed to create an arbitrary incentive to change by assessing fuel dealers a fee.
Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, saw the initiative’s true meaning and rejected it as being too costly to Vermonters. Furthermore, he was not interested in outsourcing the taxing of Vermont residents.
According to Vermont Daily Chronicle’s reporting, Scott believed that he might not control the issue if the Vermont Climate Council (an ardent supporter of the TCI) had its way. The governor need no longer be concerned: his Massachusetts and Connecticut colleagues have done the deed for him.
What is revealing about our neighboring governors’ actions is that the legislation to adopt TCI failed in their legislature and Rhode Island’s. Note that Democrats control all three legislatures. The underlying reason was that their citizens were hard-hit from the geometric increase (over 50%) in fossil fuel cost in the prior 10 months. But there could be another reason, as reported in The Wall Street Journal of Nov. 21; the paper noted that what took place during the Nov. 2 elections in New Jersey and in Virginia was not lost on the politicians. The issues that voters are concerned with are increasing costs for fuels, food, health care and housing, not to mention the uncertainty over Covid, education and the overall economy.
TCI was, for those adamant about their “Climate Armageddon” cause, to get the Northeast region off fossil fuels. They attempted this by assessing a fee (tax), and as a committee, allocating back the monies collected to the 12 states (and Washington, D.C.) to convert/use electric devices. The assessment would impact the dealers who provide the fuels, who, of course, would then pass the additional cost onto their customers. So much for representative government.
Nevertheless, my joy over an early holiday present might be short-lived. In December, a report is due from the 23-member Vermont Climate Council. If rumors are true, the recommended mandates to meet the state’s goal of reducing its 2005 carbon emissions by 26% by 2025 will be costly, divisive and unsettling. Politicians and government officials should heed what took place on Nov. 2, for a repeat could be in the offering next November.
The changing climate is a fact and needs to be addressed. However, it should be through education and incentives, not through dictates and mandates from those who are not elected but relish wielding power and control over our lives.
Don Keelan writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington, Vermont.