McClaughry: The climate-conscious transportation game

By John McClaughry

The red hot policy issue in the state right now is S.5, the (un)Affordable Heat bill passed by the Democratic supermajority in the House and Senate. Gov. Phil Scott vetoed it last Thursday.

Largely out of sight, the annual transportation bill (H.479) has easily passed both chambers and is now the subject of a committee of conference to negotiate the final version, which should appear this week.

John McClaughry

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

The theme of this bill indicates how “climate change” has become its leading concern, inasmuch as transportation is the leading cause (40%) of carbon dioxide emissions. The bill contains a great deal of spending to retard climate change while avoiding politically dangerous ideas like driving up heating fuel prices to reduce thermal emissions (S.5).

Consider Sec. 2: “This act includes the State’s fiscal year 2024 transportation investments intended to reduce transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, reduce fossil fuel use, and save Vermont households money in furtherance of the policies articulated in 19 V.S.A. § 10b [overall transportation policies] and the goals of the Comprehensive Energy Plan and the Vermont Climate Action Plan and to satisfy the Executive and Legislative Branches’ commitments to the Paris Agreement climate goals.”

The Vermont Climate Action Plan, issued in 2021 by the Vermont Climate Council, contains literally hundreds of recommendations for steps Vermonters must take to look like we are somehow defeating climate change.

The Paris Agreement of 2015 demanded that the 194 participating nations take sweeping steps to achieve the same objective, mainly by curbing carbon dioxide emissions. After six years practically none of those nations are complying.

In any case, the Transportation Plan, in addition to the usual selection and adjustment of bridge and highway projects, contains millions of dollars of new spending aimed at getting people out of internal combustion vehicles, getting them into electric vehicles, and luring them into bike paths, public transit and even passenger rail.

Installing DC Fast Charging stations for electric vehicles remains popular, with the hope that highway users will adjust to entering a charging station only to find three other cars impatiently waiting for a working charger to become available.

There are more subsidies for buyers of EVs, some of which will be very deep to ensure that many more lucky people with incomes up to $100,000 will “benefit from electric driving, including Vermont’s most vulnerable.”

There’s a Carbon Reduction Formula Program, a Mileage Smart program, a Complete Streets Program, and the Replace Your Ride program which pays you to scrap your gasoline powered car and find some other way to get around.

There has to be some serious tension between drivers, especially in the business sector, who want safe, smooth, and well-maintained highways and bridges, and the Climate Council enthusiasts who argue that spending money to achieve safe, smooth, and well-maintained highways and bridges just encourages more car, van, bus and truck travel, using more gasoline and diesel fuel and even more electricity.

This is not to say that any of these programs is actually harmful. The question is whether it makes sense to shower tax dollars on them at the expense of the highways and bridges that have been the state’s transportation policy goal for the past hundred years.

One sore point raised by the EV promotion campaign is the fact that the fuel taxes that support the Transportation Fund are entirely paid by internal combustion vehicles. What happens in the not so distant future when almost all gas and diesel powered vehicles, along with their motor fuel taxes, are required to disappear?

So far the climate-conscious legislature has refused to shift any of that burden to EVs, arguing that it’s an obstacle to the desperate need to get 170,000 EVs on the roads by 2030 as recommended by the Climate Council. (The present number of EVs on the road is around 9,000.)

This bill creates the machinery for producing a radical solution: the Mileage Based User Fee. In this scheme, there will be no more fuel tax at the pump. Instead, drivers will pay a tax on miles driven between odometer readings at annual inspections. If you drive to Florida, you’ll pay Vermont for the miles you drove in eleven other states. Tourists who now pay 20% of gas taxes at Vermont pumps ($78 million) won’t be taxed at all.

Alternatively, GPS satellite tracking of your onboard transponder will add up the number of miles your vehicle is driven in the state, and the state will levy a user fee on the total. That of course would mean that the government will have a complete record of where you’ve driven, when you’ve driven, and how fast you’ve driven. You might call it Big Brother in the Sky.

MBUF is two years off.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Images courtesy of Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development and John McClaughry

5 thoughts on “McClaughry: The climate-conscious transportation game

  1. Ya’ gotta’ love Liberal hypocrisy. Rules, new Laws and “Diktats” of Climate do not apply to them. This list is just the start:

    “Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, has also been outspoken about climate change. Last year, Zuckerberg, or people connected to him, took 367 flights on four aircraft which burned 243,000 gallons of jet fuel and in doing so emitted about 2,372 tons of carbon dioxide.

    Topping the list of these high flying hypocrites is former New York City mayor and multi-billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who has been aggressively
    Bloomberg, or people connected to him used five aircraft which emitted about 3,197 tons of CO2 in 2022.. For comparison, the average American is responsible for about 16 tons of CO2 emissions per year. In other words, Bloomberg’s fleet of jets is emitting about 200 times more CO2 per year than what’s emitted by the average American.

    Laurene Powell Jobs provides another example of the rank hypocrisy of the climate aristocracy. Jobs is one of the billionaires behind the gas bans. She was a founding board member of Climate Imperative, a new climate activist group that is spending more than $200 million per year to push rapid scaling of renewable energy, widespread electrification of buildings and transportation, stopping the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure, reducing pollution from major industrial sources, and economy wide pathways to reduce emissions.
    In 2022, Jobs, or people connected to her, took 141 flights on her Gulfstream G650, which burns about 500 gallons of jet fuel per hour. Jobs’ airplane burned about 143,000 gallons of jet fuel last year, or roughly 292 times more than the amount of gasoline consumed by an average American motorist.

    Elon Musk, who made the bulk of his vast fortune by selling electric vehicles, has declared the climate change is the biggest threat that humanity faces this century. Last year, Musk, or people connected to him took 190 flights on his Gulfstream G650R, which burned 174,000 gallons of jet fuel. That amounts to about 356 times the amount of liquid hydrocarbons that are consumed by an average American motorist.

  2. In 1842, Mackay wrote “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.” We’re overdue for an update.

    • The “updates” have indeed come from two unlikely sources…here are two spot on quotes to VT’s legislative situation now. The bottom one is from a French writer, around 1905!

      “David Mamet had a famous saying, essentially: …‘In order for democrats, liberals, progressives et al to continue their illogical belief systems they have to pretend not to know a lot of things… By pretending ‘not to know’ there is no guilt, no actual connection to conscience. Denial of truth allows easier trespass.”

      “It will never be known what acts of cowardice have been committed for fear of not looking sufficiently progressive.”……( Think: Sen Richard SEARS and his needed veto vote)

      ― Charles Péguy

      • I think David missed the mark a little on D’s P’s pretending not to know, I think they are to dumb to know or to blinded by agenda ro see reality or posses common sense.At any rate all this waste of VT’ers money is for accomplishing nothing on the grand scale of their climate hoax agenda and they know it but don’t care. Same with our infrastructure which will continue to have users not paying for the use of roads and bridges. They know the roads won’t get fixed but the EV agenda is the priority, and again accomplishes nothing on the warming hoax scale..

        • It actually does accomplish something. Something nefarious they intend. It makes serfs out of us Vermonters and places us under the rule of our socialist masters in the Vermont legislature. During a recent committee hearing, when one of the Republicans objected to a piece of harsh legislation the Democrats were imposing on Vermonters, a Democrat on the Committee is alleged to have said in reply, “Elections have consequences.” That is akin to “Let them eat cake.” Our lords and masters of the supermajority persuasion in Montpelier do not care a fig for their people. They are blindly following the UN global warming agenda.

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