McClaughry: More funding! More funding!

By John McClaughry

In July 2019 the Legislature instructed the Public Utility Commission to recommend what the Legislature must do to adopt “a multi-pronged approach to address Vermont’s greenhouse gas reduction and weatherization goals.” The PUC has now delivered its report. It can be summarized in two words: “More funding!”

“If Vermont is to make progress toward its energy and greenhouse gas emissions reductions goal and commitments, the State will need to identify appropriate, stable, and robust funding and program options outside the traditionally regulated sectors of electricity and natural gas,” the report states.

Translation: “Let’s find something to tax, to bring in the robust tax dollars required to pay, and keep on paying, for the Green agenda. More funding!”

John McClaughry

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

In particular, the PUC wants a “Thermal Efficiency Benefit Charge” — more honestly described as a new state tax on heating oil, kerosene, and propane — to “provide funds for thermal efficiency programs that benefit the users of those fuels.” The report also wants to “gradually increase the [existing heating] fuel tax to benefit more low-income Vermonters.”

The PUC unsurprisingly recommends a new tax on motor fuel, to be imposed by the multi-state Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) to “achieve financial benefits for Vermont.” Those benefits would be subsidies to favored causes like electric vehicles, heat pumps, and always more home weatherization. They would be paid for with dollars collected from motor fuel users — workers, businesses, farms, schools, local governments, and the like — that are left over after the TCI organization pockets its administrative, reporting, enforcement, legal and allowance auction costs, and generous staff salaries.

Ordinary Vermonters will get from these tax increases “an investment that will leverage private capital, produce local jobs, boost the Vermont economy, and enhance the health and affordability of the state.” Oh, come on. Nobody is dull witted enough to swallow that.

Let’s look at the sequence of events here.

In 2018 the climate change movement failed to sell even an overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature on enacting their carbon tax — the ESSEX Plan. They managed only to grab $120,000 to get a “decarbonization” study from a reputable national research institution, Resources For the Future.

The RFF report that arrived in January 2019 found that no imaginable level of carbon taxes would drive down CO2 emissions to Vermont’s targeted levels, and that economic welfare losses from a significant carbon tax would be offset only by imagined “climate benefits” accruing to the entire planet. That finding was a serious downer for the climate change movement.

So the movement united behind another taxpayer-financed study, undertaken by persons dependent upon the Legislature who could be trusted to make a better case for “all fuels energy efficiency” based on a carbon tax, to raise “robust” revenues to spend on the long menu of green causes.

The Legislature assigned the study to the PUC chaired by an ardent climate warrior, Anthony Z. Roisman. He was a key legal strategist for the New England Coalition Against Nuclear Pollution (i.e. “Shut Down Vermont Yankee!”), and even told the public two years ago that Vermont was facing a “Pearl Harbor moment” requiring a “wartime effort” to cope with the growing menace of climate change.

Created in 1886 to regulate railroad rates, the much-expanded role of the PUC is to strike a balance between protecting consumers against monopoly overcharges, and letting regulated companies earn enough on invested capital to continue as going businesses. But in the past 10 years, the Legislature has made the PUC into its own reliable, like-minded manager and think tank on energy and climate matters.

Thus when the Legislature wants to force Vermonters to engage in an all-out war against the menace of climate change, covets millions of taxpayer dollars to finance the cornucopia of spending urged by the Environmental Action Network, and can’t muster a majority that dares to vote for the carbon taxes needed to finance that spending, it turns to the friendly PUC to provide the cover for the tax raising. More funding!

That’s why this latest PUC report is so forthright about declaring that it “joins the chorus of voices seeking climate action.” The PUC is doing its part by announcing that Vermont can’t meet its ambitious carbon dioxide emissions reduction goals — made mandatory by the Global Warming Solutions Act passed last October over Gov. Phil Scott’s veto — without more funding.

A useful citizen response would be to tell Gov. Scott and the legislators to forget about jacking up motor fuel and heating oil costs to feed a bunch of clamoring special interests at the expense of everyone else trying to stay above water during the pandemic. Otherwise, this determined climate change advocacy machine is going to keep grinding on until one or another carbon tax scheme is hung around everyone’s neck.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Images courtesy of Public domain and John McClaughry

13 thoughts on “McClaughry: More funding! More funding!

  1. All these climate change zombies, work on the chicken little alarmist syndrone: The sky is falling, the sky is falling.

  2. If the Legislature’s and the PUC’s interest were truly reducing carbon emissions, they would encourage more utilization of hydro power from Quebec. That transition could be made with little or no pain to the working Vermonter (for whom they are presumably working). No more clearcutting for wind and solar. No need to rebuild the distribution system to “backwards feed” from the intrusive facilities constructed in the hinterland. No relatively short-term replacement of expensive and environmentally damaging clean energy facilities. (Where will those thousands of worn-out solar panels go?)
    More hydro would reduce (or even eliminate) carbon production associated with electric energy. With more “climate warriors” admitting that nothing Vermont can do, no matter what burden it puts on its citizens, will have any effect on global warming, I don’t think that I am the only one who sees the State’s course of action as some sort of effort to punish middle Vermonters, when there are options that can bring us closer to the expressed goals without that punishment.
    Punished for what? I’m not sure. That’s a whole other, very large discussion…….
    I, and perhaps others, would be interested in Willem Post’s take on this. He has done a lot of energy research and has the numbers.

    • Indeed. HQ is providing sustainable green power, all Vermont needs, at 6 cents per KWH. That’s less than half the rate GMP pays for net metered solar and wind power. In fact, 1/3 of Vermon’ts power already comes from HQ and they’d like to sell more of it to us.

      Unfortunately, the VT energy committees are loaded with people with personal interest in solar and wind power.


    The Vermont House overrode Governor Scott’s veto of GWSA, and sent it to the Vermont Senate for an override vote
    GSWA converts the aspirational goals of the CEP, into mandated goals, with penalties, taxes, fees and surcharges.
    GWSA had been called “must pass this Session”.

    Capital Costs to Implement the Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan

    In 2015, Energy Action Network, EAN, an umbrella organization for RE businesses, etc., had estimated it would take at least $1.25 BILLION per year for 35 years to implement the CEP by 2050, not counting many $billions for 1) financing costs and 2) replacement costs of short-live systems (wind, solar, batteries, EVs, heat pumps) during these 35 years.


    California: California has had a GWSA law since 2006, which resulted in:

    – Rapid increases of electric rates and gasoline prices
    – Huge DUCK-curves, due to midday solar electricity surges
    – Unwise/untimely/political/ideological shutdown of gas plants, which resulted in rolling blackouts, when, during a multi-day heat wave, solar disappearing in late-afternoon/early-evening (DURING PEAK HOURS), and not reappearing until mid-morning THE NEXT DAY, while all that time wind was minimal.
    – A host of rules, regulations, taxes, fees and surcharges, and penalties to enforce behavior modification programs

    With high levels of weather-dependent wind and solar, huge storage (multiple TWh) would be required.
    That storage would cost several trillion dollars, if materials could be found to build such capacity. It would need to cover:

    1) Single and multi-day heat waves over large areas
    2) Multi-day wind/solar lulls throughout the year, as frequently occur in New England
    3) Short-term and seasonal variations.

    The ADDITIONAL environmental impact on millions of acres with wind and solar systems, would be enormous all over the US.

    It would be much better to build millions of PASSIVHAUS-style buildings all over the US.
    They would need only 1/3 the energy of the current energy hogs.

    Vermont: For Vermont, the only thing that makes any sense is to stop “emulating” California.
    Vermont should immediately scrap GWSA, and concentrate on:

    1) Energy conservation
    2) Energy efficiency
    3) Building net-zero-energy, and energy-surplus houses and other buildings, by the thousands, each year. See Appendix
    4) Provide incentives to buy vehicles that get more than 35 mpg, EPA combined; the more above the limit, the greater the incentive.
    5) Charge annual fees, paid at time of registration, on existing and new vehicles that get less than 25 mpg, EPA combined; the more below the limit, the greater the fee.

    The above 4 items would save money for Vermonters, and make the state economy more competitive
    Most of the other energy measures are just expensively subsidized hogwash and behavior modifications that would not make one iota of difference regarding climate change.

  4. Let’s supplement John’s comments regarding the PUC’s recommendations with President Biden’s new Climate Czar John Kerry’s recent message to the American people saying that if the United States totally eliminates greenhouse gases, it will have no impact off global warming…….This end result is after the federal government burns through the $2 trillion that Biden is committed to spend to fight climate change.

    President Biden is willing to spend $2 trillion and get no change in global warming in return…….A losing strategy that the Vermont legislature, the PUC and Governor Scott are apparently willing to follow……..Spend millions of Vermont tax payer dollars ( $43 million in new budget) and get nothing in return on climate mitigation.

    Now who among you, is willing to invest your kid’s college tuition money, retirement savings, grocery, mortgage or rent money in a scheme that you know and have been told will return nothing to you?……..My guess is that very few or more likely none of you would do such a thing………But the State of Vermont is willing to make such a bad bet……This is after being told by John Kerry that if the United States totally eliminated greenhouse gases, it will do nothing to change climate change.

    So what are they thinking in Montpelier?

    • “So what are they thinking in Montpelier?”

      They’re thinking about the money. Your money. They know they can’t earn it. So they’ll take it – under the grand scheme that you don’t know how to spend it wisely in the first place… and they do.

      It’s always, always…. about the money!

    • I don’t know what they are thinking, but while ill with the virus, I have been doing a lot of research and thinking about which State I am going to move to next. After reading this article, I have decided to take a trip this Spring to Delaware. DE has very low property taxes and no sales tax…houses are affordable and it is close enough to Long Island, so I can make day trips to see my daughter. I refuse to let these Progressives take every penny I have left just to pocket it under the table, like Bernie Sanders has done.
      After seeing what our Senators spend their time and our tax dollars doing, like Leahy heading the call to impeach President Trump, I’m embarrassed to say I live here. This is never going to end until they take every last penny from our bank accounts.

      • Since Leahy first sought a good paying DC position in 1975 to date he’s collected $5,626,462.50.
        Since 1991 Sanders in DC has collected to date $2,596,400
        I haven’t researched Welch, almost upset my stomach about it all.
        This doesn’t include the side bonuses nor political quid quo pro like Leahy’s EB5 involvement.

        You’d think they could fund some of VT’s programs and be beneficial to the residents. Nope, Liberal greed and they know where the butter is spread. Representing VT, they represent themselves.

        This info is easily researched.

  5. The Vermont Public Utility Commission’s power couple:

    The Vermont Public Utility Commission (PUC) is a three-member, quasi-judicial commission that supervises the rates, quality of service, and overall financial management of Vermont’s utilities: electric, natural gas, telecommunications, and private water companies.

    And keep in mind that a quasi-judicial commission has the right to hold hearings on and conduct investigations into disputed claims and alleged infractions of rules and regulations and to make decisions in the general manner of courts. The three member Vermont PUC is one of the State’s most powerful commissions.

    And not only is the PUC’s chair, Anthony Roisman, ‘an ardent climate warrior’. Consider the PUC’s number two member, Commissioner Margaret Cheney.

    Ms. Cheney is also a member of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. She serves on NARUC’s Committee on Energy Resources and the Environment that works closely with the U.S. House of Representatives in legislative policy making, including but not limited to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, the Climate Solutions Caucus, and the Sustainable Energy and Environmental Caucus.

    And guess who else serves on those House of Representative committees and caucuses? Margaret Cheney’s husband, Vermont Rep. Peter Welch.

    Does a potential for conflict of interest come to mind?

    • But we aren’t supposed to say anything.. The ” nothing to see here move along”Even tho there is a conflict of interest. Just like the Sanders killing the Burlington College deal or the B5 deal..When it comes to money all the Vermont officials are involved one way or another.

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