By John McClaughry
Disreputable politicians all too often assign deceptive labels to legislation to mislead voters who don’t pay close attention. A deplorable example of such mislabeling is the forthcoming Affordable Heating Act.
“Affordable Heating” is the new label applied by the climateers to replace the “Clean Heat Standard” bill that Gov. Scott vetoed last May. Now, with a veto-proof and disciplined 104-38 majority in the House, the Democrats are eager to pass a renamed “Clean Heat Standard” whether Gov. Phil Scott likes it or not.
Here’s how a leading climate and energy reporter describes it:
Last year’s bill laid out a clean heat standard that would gradually transition home heating and cooling systems away from fossil fuels. Using a credit system, it would have rewarded entities — organizations, businesses and, in some instances, homeowners — who helped to reduce thermal fossil fuel usage in Vermont’s buildings.
A person who installed a heat pump, sealed and insulated a home to make it weather-proof or installed efficient appliances could earn credits as long as their project measurably reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
In turn, the measure would have established ‘obligated parties’ — fuel dealers bringing fossil fuels for heating into Vermont for sale — that would be required to buy or generate an increasing number of credits per year.
There is nothing false about the foregoing description. It’s the Vermont Climate Council-approved description of the Clean Heat Standard. The Democratic majorities are about to give it to us again as the “Affordable Heating Act.” But maybe you should ask a few penetrating questions before rejoicing in the coming affordability.
Who operates this “credit system” and how does it choose and reward these lucky entities? Where will these “obligated parties” find the money to pay for this increasing number of credits per year? Will the fuel dealers be fined if they don’t buy enough credits? Who will end up paying for that? And how will my heating fuel bill be made more affordable?
The answers to these questions are well known to the Vermont Climate Council and the climate interest groups that engineered its creation and are now represented on it.
Let me translate for you:
“Our planet faces a climate crisis caused by emissions of carbon dioxide. People heating with oil, gas, and propane cause a large part of these emissions. Those people must be made to stop.”
“Simply banning petroleum fuels would cause resistance. So we’ll assign the (unaccountable) Public Utilities Commission to come up with a schedule of funny-money credits and distribute them among people who reduce emissions, notably Efficiency Vermont.”
“Vermont’s fuel dealers will be told to earn or buy a specified number of credits as penance for delivering heating fuel. The required number of credits will be increased year after year.”
“To pay for these credits, your fuel dealer will have little choice but to increase the price you will pay for heating fuel. If fuel dealers fail to comply, the PUC will sock them with a ‘noncompliance payment’ equal to three times their credit deficit.”
“Oh yes, if you’re a certified low income person you’ll get a subsidy to offset the higher fuel price. If you’re not such a person, you’ll keep paying more and more extra for winter heat, until you install undependable electric heat pumps or advanced wood heat systems, or unload your home or business and move to a place where the government is not under the control of devious carbon taxers.”
Will all this cost and grief, over 20 or 50 years, have any detectable effect on any metric of the planet’s climate? Of course not. Meanwhile, just one China’s new 1,600 megawatt coal burning power plants will pour out more CO2 than everything in today’s Vermont — heat, transportation, everything. Unless you’re among the favored few, you’ll pay ever more for your heating fuel, after having been told that this act will exemplify Gov. Scott’s signature promise of keeping Vermont “affordable.”
On a radio show a week ago Gov. Scott was asked about the Affordable Heating Act. He said a new name won’t change the reality about what the failed legislation proposes. “If [lawmakers] … call it by a different name, and if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck,” the governor said.
The governor will insist, correctly, that there must be a clear record vote in the Legislature to put this “Affordable Heating Act” into operation next winter. But he has yet to brand it a regressive, fruitless, dishonestly labelled and unaffordable heating fuel cost increase on 65% of Vermonters.
One would hope that he will stand up and oppose this fraud from day one, and rally the 70 percent of Vermonters who just voted to reelect him to stand with him.
John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.