McClaughry: Cota on Burlington gas furnace tax and fire pit ban

By John McClaughry

Here’s an interesting news item from last Friday. The Burlington City Council has banned backyard wood burning fire pits due to concerns about air pollution.

Public domain

Outdoor fire pits are popular for small gatherings in the fall and winter months.

Matt Cota of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association observes in their member newsletter that “Meanwhile, the same city council is expected to impose a carbon tax on new gas furnaces in order to convince more people to hook up to electric heat. This is the same electric heat that caused Burlington residents to flee an apartment complex because the temperature inside didn’t get above 45 degrees in December. This is also the same electricity that comes from the city-owned Burlington Electric utility that is fed by the city-owned wood burning power plant. This is the same wood burning power plant that operates at just 24%  efficiency and is the largest emitter of carbon dioxide in Vermont.”

Matt’s observation explains why it is so hard to even get a hearing from those afflicted with the climate change obsession. They have grand plans to use the government’s coercive power to make you — the homeowner, vehicle driver, business person and taxpayer — submit to their prescriptions for things that will never make the slightest difference to the planet’s temperature.

If they’re hung up on “air pollution” caused by CO2 emissions, maybe they ought to do something about the largest emitter in Vermont, their own municipal power plant. But no, they’re addicted to virtue signaling instead of dealing with their own CO2 emitter problem.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Image courtesy of Public domain

12 thoughts on “McClaughry: Cota on Burlington gas furnace tax and fire pit ban

  1. As people are shivering in the cold this winter, will they be saying thank God for the Democrats? I doubt it.

  2. My state of NH, which is damn near the same size as Vermont has 1.3 million people to Vermont’s 630K or so. What this tells me is that few people want to actually live in what they have created in Vermont.
    I cannot see this as a winning plan for the future. It’s really not rocket science.


    The EAN analysis was based on favorable artificial/political assumptions, which caused a gross overstatement of the CO2 reduction of electric vehicles and heat pumps.

    As a result, many more EVs and HPs would be required to achieve the EAN CO2 reductions.
    A realistic turnkey capital cost would be about $13.70 billion. See table 1

    Because the CO2 reduction of Phase 1 is “only” 1.56 MMT, the turnkey capital cost of Phase 1 (using the EAN plan as a basis, and using realistic assumptions) would be about 1.56/2.28 x $13.70 billion = $9.25 billion.

    See below explanation (items 1, 2, 3, and 4), and notes, and URL.

    1) Electricity: EAN used an artificial/political value of 34 g CO2/kWh, at wall outlet, based on “paper” power purchase agreements utilities have with owners of wind, solar, hydro and nuclear plants, instead of 276 g CO2/kWh, the NE grid CO2, adjusted downward for low-CO2 imports from nearby grids.

    The NE grid CO2 value is based on the physical consumption of fuel by NE generating plants, as determined by ISO-NE.
    Utilities physically draw almost all of their electricity supply from the NE grid.

    Electricity moves on the grid as electro-magnetic waves, at near the speed of light, i.e., 1800 miles in 0.01 second.
    There is no such thing as Vermont CO2, New Hampshire CO2, etc. Those are artificial/political constructs.
    See tables 2 and 3 in Appendix

    2) Mileage: EAN used 22.7 mpg, EPA combined, in 2018. See pg. 4 of URL
    That is the average of ALL vehicles registered in Vermont.
    That would include all types of 1) gasoline vehicles, 2) diesel vehicles, including large and small trucks, 3) RVs, and other on-the-road vehicles.
    EVs usually replace higher mileage vehicles, i.e., greater than 30 mpg, EPA combined. See notes.

    3) EAN Analysis
    Did not consider upstream CO2 for heat pumps and electric vehicle analysis
    Did not consider embodied CO2 of electric vehicles

    4) EAN-calculated Annual Savings
    Did not consider annual service calls and spare parts of heat pumps, which reduce overall cost savings
    Did not consider the amortizing cost of the short-life assets. Additional capital cost would be required to replace them.
    Did not consider the amortizing cost of the long-life assets

    NOTE: Eco-conscious people who drive higher-mileage vehicles, say greater than 30 mpg, EPA combined, are likely to buy EVs or plug-hybrids, such as a 54-mpg Prius.
    EAN using 22.7 mpg, instead of at least 30 mpg, would make EVs look better, regarding CO2 emissions.
    It is a form of hyping EVs, not obvious to lay people/legislators.

    See fig ES-1 of URL

    1) Figure ES-1 shows about 80% of Vermonters purchased lower-mileage vehicles, i.e., less than 30 mpg, EPA combined, during 2016, 2017, and 2018.
    Those vehicles (such as SUVs, crossovers, ¼-ton pick-ups) usually have all-wheel-drive or 4-wheel drive.
    They are most useful to Vermonters, especially during winter conditions.

    2) Figure ES-1 shows about 20% of Vermonters purchased higher-mileage vehicles., i.e., greater than 30 mpg, EPA combined, during 2016, 2017, and 2018.
    Those few, eco-conscious, Vermonters are likely candidates for replacing their higher-mileage vehicles with EVs.
    EV adoption likely is “not taking off”, because the EVs being marketed are: 1) too expensive, if they have larger batteries, 2) lose up to 40% of range during cold weather, and 3) are unsuitable/insufficient for Vermonters’ needs and Vermont road/climate conditions.

    NOTE: The current EVs being marketed definitely cannot economically replace the IC vehicles that Vermonters prefer/need to drive, because of conditions.
    Eco-conscious owners of IC vehicles, with 30 mpg or higher EPA combined, are the people who buy EVs.
    About 50% of EV buyers are eco-conscious enough to also have solar panels.
    A high tax to force people with IC vehicles to abandon their preferred vehicles, would be an imposition.


    CEP Financial Implications: Almost no one, including most legislators, have any idea regarding the reductions of CO2 and the turnkey capital cost to achieve them.

    Here is a brief summary of the turnkey capital cost of Phase 1, i.e., reduce CO2 by at least 26% below 2005
    The below CO2 emissions reductions for Phases 1, 2, and 3 are based on the VT-CEP goals, as mandated by GWSA.

    Phase 1
    26%+ below 2005, i.e., (1 – 0.27) x 10.22 = 7.46 MMt, by Jan. 1, 2025, to “meet Paris”
    The Council would take about a year to develop plans, which means most of 2021 would have elapsed before any action.

    The actual CO2 reduction would be from 9.02, at end 2018 (latest numbers) to 7.46, Jan. 1, 2025, or 1.56 MMt, during the years 2022, 2023, and 2024, effectively a 3-y period.

    The turnkey capital cost would be about 1.56/2.28 x 13.70 = $9.37 billion, or $3.12 billion/y
    The CO2 reduction appears to be a physical and financial impossibility.
    See table 1 and Note.

    Phase 2
    40%+ below 1990, i.e., (1 – 0.40) x 8.59 = 5.15 MMt, by Jan. 1, 2030
    The CO2 reduction would be 7.46, Jan 1, 2025 – 5.15, Jan. 1, 2030 = 2.31 MMt, during the 5-y period
    No capital cost estimate was made.

    Phase 3
    80%+ below 1990, i.e., (1 – 0.80) x 8.59 = 1.72 MMt, by January 1, 2050
    The CO2 reduction would be 5.15, Jan. 1, 2030 – 1.72, Jan. 1 2050 = 3.43 MMt, during the 20-y period
    No capital cost estimate was made.

  5. GWSA and its 23-MEMBER COUNCIL

    GSWA converts the aspirational goals of the CEP, to mandated goals.

    In practice, the Council likely would be the sole decider how hundreds of millions of $dollars would be spent, each year, for decades, with no relief ever, because:

    If mandated goals are not attained, there would be mandated financial penalties, prohibitions (you shall do this; you shall not do that), fees and surcharges.

    The “Fight Climate Change” agitators, many of whom would stand to financially gain from the GWSA mandates, have failed to get a carbon tax enacted for five years.
    With GWSA, they will get a bonanza beyond their wildest dreams for decades.
    They labelled GWSA as “this year’s must-pass legislation”.

    GSWA has a 23-member Council. The Council make-up would include:

    1) Eight Government Secretaries and Commissioners
    2) Eight members appointed by the Speaker of the House
    3) Seven members appointed by the “Committee on Committees”, C of C
    The members of the C of C are the Lt Governor, Senate president pro tem, and a “third member” elected by the Senate
    See URL

    The Governor’s Secretary of Administration would be the Chairman.
    He/she has the power to call meetings.
    If he/she delays calling meetings, any 12 of 23 members could call a meeting.

    NOTE: The Governor would have only 8 votes, plus may be a few more, but likely not 5, i.e., the Governor could not override the 12 members calling a meeting.

    The action sequence would be as follows:

    Council would approve plans.
    VT Agency of Natural Resources, ANR, would write rules to implement plans,
    Council would approve rules
    Approved rules sent to the Governor’s Interagency Committee on Administrative Rules, ICAR
    ICAR is composed of Governor Appointees
    ICAR can reject the rules, i.e., the Governor can stop the process.

    What happens next likely would be lawsuits
    Any entity, such as the Conservation Law Foundation, could sue the state, if Council decisions would not reduce CO2 in accordance with GSWA/CEP goals.

    Legislators and Other Vermonters are Disenfranchised

    If mandated goals are not attained, there would be mandated financial penalties, prohibitions (you shall do this; you shall not do that), fees and surcharges
    If the Council would decide to impose the equivalent of a carbon tax, so be it.

    Legislators would not be allowed to vote on any plan, or any proposed rules.
    Legislators would not be voting on GWSA-related financial penalties, prohibitions, and increases in fees and surcharges.
    Legislators, and the people who voted for them, would be disenfranchised.
    Legislators would be “off-the-hook”.

    GWSA Likely is Unconstitutional

    On the face of it, GWSA has to be unconstitutional, because the Governor, and his administration, and Legislators, appear to have no effective say in any Council decisions.
    Such extremism could only come about due to the present, veto-proof control by Dem/Progs.
    This is Centralized Command and Control by the ruling Dem/Progs.
    It has nothing to do with give and take of Democracy.

    NOTE: Vermont is “lucky”, because it will have the California 14-y, GWSA-experience of rapidly increasing electric rates, and increasing gasoline and heating fuel prices, and rolling brown-outs/black-outs as a guide.

  6. John,

    Fossil fuels was 91% in 1949, 80% in 2019, SEVENTY YEARS LATER
    Renewables was 9% in 1949, 11% in 2019, SEVENTY YEARS LATER

    Despite an “investment” of about $380 billion from 2004-2015, “renewable” energy consumption increased by only 3.6 quads.
    That is equivalent to $105.56 per million Btu

    For comparison, the wellhead price for natural gas is currently around $3.30/million Btu and the US residential price has averaged $10.55/million Btu since 2014.

    If it were possible to replace fossil fuels with “renewables,” at $105.56/million Btu, it would cost just under $8.5 trillion to replace 80.4 quads of fossil fuels.

    NOTE: Biden, parading as a moderate, wants to replace fossils with renewables by 2035, or 2050, “at the latest”, i.e., spending 8500/15 = 567 BILLION/y, if 2035, or 8500/30 = $283 BILLION/y, if 2050

    NOTE: The US primary energy consumption in 2019 was 100.4 quads, which is only 17% of world total primary energy, i.e.,
    worldwide spending to replace fossils would be at least 5 times greater, or spending $2.8 TRILLION/y, if 2035, or 1.42 TRILLION/y if 2050. The later is close to my above estimate of $1.5 TRILLION/y. All this does not include the cost of financing, and the cost of replacing short-life items prior to 2050.

    NOTE: It should be clear by now, replacing fossil fuels with renewables would involve enormous investments.

  7. Senseless how those with a false sense of power force others into their grandiose distorted narrow visioned false narrative to deviously keep the money flowing for their own benefit. A total sham!

  8. When it comes to fighting climate change, the leaders of Burlington are apparently unfazed with practicing unadulterated hypocrisy……or being saddled with the title of hypocrite.

    How in the world can the Burlington City Council place a ban on backyard wood burning fire pits while tolerating the operation of the McNeil wood fired power plant that burns thousands of tons of wood each year spewing thousand tons of CO2 into the air?

    The only explanation is hypocrisy of the worse sort……..Throughout history, hypocrites have be judged harshly. Think back to 10th grade English class, Dante’s Inferno and the assignment of hypocrites to the 8th Circle of hell or an eternal dwelling place for the worse of the worse.

    Maybe time for some self reflection by the Councilors.

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