McClaughry: The final push for Global Warming Solutions Act

By John McClaughry

It’s crunch time for the Climate Action Network’s most urgently sought legislation: the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA). The House passed this bill (H.688) — that I earlier described as the “worst democracy-shredding bill of the past 50 years” — back in January. The Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee has been considering it remotely for a month. If it doesn’t get a Senate vote this month, the bill is dead until next year, when the climate change juggernaut will bring it in again and pull all the stops to get it passed.

Here’s what the GWSA would do. First, it recites a lot of grim United Nations pronouncements about our mounting climate emergency, if we don’t take drastic measures to rein in the alleged culprit, human-caused carbon dioxide emissions. Then it declares how much state government must force Vermonters to reduce such emissions by 2025, 2030 and 2050.

John McClaughry

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

To prevent any foot-dragging by the governor that would slow Vermont’s rush to enforced climate virtue, the GWSA bill sets up what amounts to an alternative government called the Climate Action Council and directs it to create an all-inclusive Climate Action Plan. The council will have eight members from the executive branch, and 14 picked by the legislative leadership to make sure that the governor’s eight can’t sidetrack any proposal urged by the climate action coalition that has been working hard to get the bill passed.

The grand Climate Action Plan will instruct the governor’s appointees, mainly the Secretary of Natural Resources, to write and enforce countless rules to control or prohibit anything and everything that contributes to CO2 emissions. Unlike legislation, where you can find out how your legislator voted and hold them accountable, the GWSA-mandated rules will never be voted on by your elected representatives. The rules will just be proclaimed, complete with fines and penalties if you don’t obey.

What if the elected head of our government, the governor, does not wish his appointees to gin up some particularly expensive, invasive, useless, or noxious rule, that would operate against the goal of affordability, especially in light of the urgent need to somehow pay down the estimated $430 million all-funds deficit projected for the approaching fiscal year? He would have to tell his appointee to forget about it. The council’s climate warrior majority would howl that the governor was obstructing the law. How that comes out no one knows, because in the past 243 years no legislature has every tried such a stunt.

What if the emissions reduction rules emerging from the bureaucracy appear to be too feeble to force Vermonters to give up the required amount of CO2 emissions to save the planet? The backers of the GWSA have provided for that. A key section of the bill invites “any person” — meaning the Conservation Law Foundation — to sue the State of Vermont to get a judge to order the bureaucracy to speed up the regulating and prohibiting.

That’s just what CLF did in Massachusetts in 2015. They used that State’s GWSA to persuade the state supreme court to instruct the Department of Environmental Protection to get cracking with sufficiently oppressive emissions regulations. And oh yes, if CLF or whoever brings the lawsuit “substantially prevails,” it gets to send to the taxpayers its bill for the legal costs for doing this service.

No self-respecting governor would stand for an alternative climate government accountable to his political opponents telling his or her appointees that they must move faster and harder, or face a judge’s order to wreck the state’s economy more quickly.

If this misbegotten bill makes it to the Senate floor, responsible Senators should offer amendments to require that the climate council make recommendations to the governor, not instruct the bureaucracy. They should move to strike out the “anybody can sue the state” provision, that includes the “make the taxpayers pay the plaintiff’s legal expenses (along with the state’s)” clause.

They should also move to add language to specifically bar rules to regulate methane from cattle, force homeowners to switch to electric heat, further subsidize electric cars, reduce fossil fuel used in manufacturing, hospitals, schools, and municipal governments, prohibit snow machines, motor boats and ATVs, and regulate trucks that bring vital food, fuel and supplies into Vermont and haul Vermont products out to markets.

Above all, they should require that no rule originating with this counterfeit climate government can take effect without an affirmative vote of the General Assembly.

It’s hard to see how, four months before an election, even the most ardent climate warriors of the Senate would welcome casting roll call votes on a long list of such amendments. A far simpler and better solution: consign the democracy-shredding GWSA to a place of eternal rest, and focus on rescuing Vermont’s precarious economy from the depredations of COVID-19.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Images courtesy of Public domain and John McClaughry
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11 thoughts on “McClaughry: The final push for Global Warming Solutions Act

  1. The GSWA aims to implement the Comprehensive Energy Plan.

    CEP CO2 GOALS FOR BUILDING HEAT FROM AIR SOURCE HEAT PUMPS ARE UNATTAINABLE, because Vermont has VERY FEW houses that can be ECONOMICALLY heated with ASHPs.

    Weatherizing average Vermont houses will NOT make them enough efficient, to make them suitable for ECONOMICALLY heating with ASHPS.
    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/vermont-co2-reduction-of-ashps-is-based-on-misrepresentations

    CEP CO2 GOALS FOR ELECTRIC VEHICLES ARE UNATTAINABLE, because, ON A LIFE-TIME BASIS, the CO2 reduction of EVs, compared to EFFICIENT gasoline vehicles, is very minor.
    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/vermont-co2-reduction-of-evs-is-based-on-a-misrepresentation

    CEP implementation requires major expansion of heavily subsidized solar, which is expensive, requires grid build outs, and expensive battery storage, to deal with daily DUCK curves at midday, especially on sunny days.

    Ah, but VT-DPS has a solution for that.

    It is called FORTRESS VERMONT; a $1.2 billion PARTIAL DOWNPAYMENT for the 2020 – 2025 period, 5 years, with more to come thereafter, as more solar is built.

    Heavily subsidized solar is the gift that keeps on taking

    Ultimately, the CEP aim is the transition to 100% IN-STATE renewable energy generation, including for EVs and ASHPs, which in my opinion, as an energy systems analyst, is a PURE FANTASY DREAMED UP by folks, such as the Klein/Shumlin, who know NOTHING about energy.
    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/vermont-is-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket-regarding-foolish-energy

    • CEP Goals for Building Space Heat and Domestic Hot Water

      63% from renewable electricity (wind, solar, hydro, biomass, etc.)
      34% from wood burning (cordwood/pellet) and bio liquids.
      3% from fossil fuels burning.

      The CEP has a goal to install about 35,000 air source heat pumps, ASHPs, by 2025. ASHPs installed were:

      In 2016, 4118; due to subsidies and boosting
      In 2017, 4161; due to subsidies and boosting
      In 2018, 2786; CADMUS survey report appeared in November 2017 with bad news for ASHPs.

      The 2018 decrease is likely due to ASHP owners, in energy-hog houses, becoming aware the average energy cost savings would be minimal. If other costs were added (amortizing, service calls, parts, etc.), they would have an annual loss. See URL.

      The CADMUS survey of 77 ASHPs, at 65 sites showed Vermont’s free-standing houses with ASHPs would have about 28% of space heat from ASHPs and 72% space heat from traditional systems, which usually provide DHW as well.
      http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/vermont-co2-reduction-of-ashps-is-based-on-misrepresentations

      CEP 63% Goal Using ASHPs is Unattainable.

      Vermont has about 265,000 households, of which:

      About 97,000 use cordwood/pellets for a part or all of space heat.
      About 65,000 use cordwood/pellets as primary fuel for space heat.
      About 190,000 use No. 2 fuel oil, propane or natural gas as primary fuel for space heat.
      About 10,000 use electricity as primary energy for space heat.

      About 88,000 of Vermont’s 100,000 free-standing houses would need major energy retrofits, at a cost of about $30,000 per house ($2.64 billion), to reduce their space heat to less than 30,000 Btu/h, at 65F indoor and -10F outdoor, to make them economically suitable for 100% space heat from ASHPs.

      After major retrofit, each house would need ASHP capacity of at least 30,000 Btu/h, at -10F, or about 65,000 Btu/h at 47F, at a cost of about $20,000 ($1.8 billion), for 100% space heat from ASHPs.

      About 59,000 of Vermont’s 66,950 housing units (apartments, condos, etc.) with ASHPs would need the same upgrades. See table 1B.

      Buildings also require DHW, space cooling, and electricity.

      • CEP Goals for Building Space Heat and Domestic Hot Water

        63% from renewable electricity (wind, solar, hydro, biomass, etc.)
        34% from wood burning (cordwood/pellet) and bio liquids.
        3% from fossil fuels burning.

        The CEP has a goal to install about 35,000 air source heat pumps, ASHPs, by 2025. ASHPs installed were:

        In 2016, 4118; due to subsidies and boosting
        In 2017, 4161; due to subsidies and boosting
        In 2018, 2786; CADMUS survey report appeared in November 2017 with bad news for ASHPs.

        CADMUS proved, the average annual energy cost savings were only $200, which is much less than the $1000 – $1800 bandied about by GMP, Efficiency Vermont, VPIRG, etc., on a turnkey investment of about $4500 per ASHP, that would last at most 15 years. If other costs were added (amortizing, service calls, parts, etc.), owners would have an annual loss.

        • With so little traditional fuel being replaced, and CO2 reduced per ASHP, CEP goals would not be met.

          The same is true for electric vehicles.

          Flawed EAN Method, primary energy basis

          The Vermont average mileage for light duty vehicles, LDVs, all sizes, was 22.7 mpg in 2018. See URL, page 2.
          https://www.eanvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/EAN-report-2020-final.pdf

          If the Vermont “LDV gasoline mix” were EVs, it would draw, via a wall socket, at least 0.400 kWh/mile, based on real-world driving of about one year.

          – EAN comparing the “LDV gasoline mix” (22.7 mpg), with a small EV using only 0.316 kWh/mile, WM basis, is flawed, i.e., apples to oranges

          – EAN using 34 g CO2/kWh, WM basis, based on “paper” power purchase agreements, PPAs, is flawed. See Note

          – The combination of flawed assumptions enabled EAN to claim a CO2 reduction of 4.500 Mt/y per EV. See table 4

          If EAN had compared “LDV gasoline mix” versus “LDV mix as EVs”, i.e., apples to apples, and used 323 g CO2/kWh, per ISO-NE, EAN would have needed, not 90,000 EVs, but at least 1.53 x 90,000 = 137,826 EVs to reduce CO2 by 4.500 Mt/y

          EAN overstated CO2 reduction by at least 4.504/2.941 = 53%. See table 4

          NOTE: The 34 g CO2/kWh is an artificial/political value for 2018, concocted by VT-DPS, based on “paper” power purchase agreements, PPAs. The low CO2 value is intended to make EVs (and air source heat pumps) look extra good versus gasoline vehicles, primarily to fool legislators and the lay public. Some legislators know they are being fooled, but play along anyway to promote party politics. See table 9.

          NOTE: This is just one example of rah-rah claims by pro-RE entities, which led to:

          1) Vermont having dysfunctional energy programs that placed an excessive burden on the near-stagnant Vermont economy (such as Net-Metered at 21.813 c/kWh and Standard Offer at 21.793 c/kWh. See table 12), and
          2) Did not reduce CO2 from 1990 – 2018.

          NOTE: VT-DPs using paper PPAs to artificially/politically reduce the CO2 of the VT electricity sector is just another blatant example of deception to promote the RE businesses of EAN members.

          • Engineers, including at EAN, very well know, a much more realistic evaluation of EVs versus gasoline vehicles has to be on a lifetime basis, such as 105,600 miles for 8 years used in this article.

            The evaluation must be based on: 1) source energy, 2) CO2/kWh, per ISO-NE, 3) embodied CO2/kWh of the vehicle body and battery, and 4) long-term WM and VM readings, obtained during real-world driving conditions.

            Lifetime evaluations have been performed for at least 20 years.

            If EAN had performed its comparisons on a lifetime basis, the CO2 reduction would have been only 1.92 metric ton/y. See table 5 in URL
            http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/vermont-co2-reduction-of-evs-is-based-on-a-misrepresentation

            Instead of 50,000 EVs to “Meet Paris” (based on flawed/deceptive energy-only comparison), EAN would have needed 210,938 EVs (lifetime comparison), to achieve the same CO2 reduction.

            If GWSA were the law of the land, there would be all sorts of behind-closed-doors meetings between ANR, VT-DPS, VT-PUC, EAN (flawed Meet Paris by 2025 study), VEIC (flawed Solar Pathways study), etc., to SAVE THE WORLD, FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE, GET THE SUBSIDIES TO DO SO, ALL WITHOUT A SINGLE LEGISLATURE VOTE

            Voters will decide the fate of this disgrace in November.

  2. The GWSA aims to implement the COMPREHENSIVE ENERGY PLAN

    CEP: The capital cost for implementing the CEP would be in excess of $1.0 billion/y for at least 33 years, according to the Energy Action Network annual report. See URLs.

    http://eanvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/EAN-2015-Annual-Report-Low-Res-Final.pdf
    https://outside.vermont.gov/sov/webservices/Shared%20Documents/2016CEP_Final.pdf

    The “Global Warming Solutions (SPENDING) Act” bill was passed by the House Energy and Technology Committee on a 7-2 vote and moved to the House Appropriations Committee, which rubber-stamped the bill. A House vote passed the bill, 105 – 37, a few days later. The Senate is next to vote.

    GWSA converts the CO2 aspirational goals of the Comprehensive Energy Plan, CEP, to legal mandates.
    GWSA requires state government to come up with rules, regulations and programs to implement the CEP.
    GWSA sets up a legislatively controlled Council to:

    – Create a plan to achieve the legal mandates of the CEP.
    – Direct the Agency of Natural Resources, ANR, Department of Public Service, DPS, etc., to issue whatever binding rules and regulations they think are needed to carry out the Council’s plan.

    The Legislature controls a Council by appointing a bunch of RE yes-men?
    The yes-men will rubber-stamp whatever the government entities, such as ANR mandates?

    The Legislature will vote for the funds to implement each binding rule and regulation?
    The Council will vote for the funds to implement each binding rule and regulation?

    Legislators would not vote on far-reaching rules and regulations that would affect every household and business?
    What if the run-wild Council decides to ruin pristine ridge lines for wind turbines to “fulfill the CEP”?

  3. The Global Warming SPENDING AND COERCION Act is a first-order outage that will restrict the freedoms of Vermonters to live their lives as they see fit, i.e., not live as MANDATED by the ONE-PARTY, MONOPOLISTIC, DEM/PROG GOVERNMENT

    Comments Regarding GWSA, Stage 1:

    – The CO2 reduction by 2025 is not just about enlarging state government by adding scores of employees to various state and local governments for managing expanded existing energy programs and adding new energy programs.

    – The rapid CO2 reduction would be extremely disruptive to ongoing economic activities, i.e., impose significant additional costs (increased taxes and additional subsidies and investments to implement mandates) on the private sector, exactly the opposite of what has been needed for about 2 decades.

    – The CO2 reduction would require adding several hundred million dollars each year, to state and local government budgets, to:

    – Manage expanded existing programs and implement new ones.
    – Distribute subsidies, mostly to RE entities.
    – Implement regulations and monitor mandated adjustments in lifestyles

    NOTE: The RE sector of the Vermont economy, including government, would be celebrating and enjoying long-term expansion, prosperity and security. All other sectors would be mourning their losses and insecurity, all while climate change continued as usual.

    – VT CO2 emissions have been increasing during recent years, due to existing government programs, costing money and increasing everyone’s costs, not being effective at decreasing CO2.

    – Any new government programs, started in haste, would need to immediately reverse the increasing CO2 trend, plus bend the curve down to achieve a lower level, i.e., from about 9.02 million Mt in 2020 to 7.578 million Mt in 2025, a daunting task.

    NOTE: The rapid increase in effectiveness of existing and new programs would happen with essentially the same career-bureaucrats and career-legislators?

    – Vermont’s CO2 was 10.24 million Mt in 2005, 10.19 million Mt in 2015, and 9.02 million Mt in 2018. The reductions in 2017 and 2018 were mainly due to increased nuclear and hydro purchases by GMP.

    – The rapid CO2 reduction is no more than wishful dreaming by career-bureaucrats and career-legislators, who want to have a “second go at it”, and “double-down” by spending $400 million/y for each of the next 5 years, plus more per year thereafter.

  4. John, This whole global warming initiative in Montpelier is pure fantasy. If Vermonters were to go 100% emissions free, it would accomplish zero, nada nothing toward the movement’s lofty objective. As any clear thinking individual would acknowledge in a heart beat, there aren’t enough zeros after the decimal point to identify the size of Vermont’s contribution to global warming. This is naive insanity.

  5. Although Star the Trek series came along after I was in my twenties, past the Sci-Fi age, hence falls outside my cognitive parameters, from what I’ve heard GWSA bears a strong resemblance to the Borg. I looked up the Borg identifying characteristics: Their deliberate intimidation, the descriptive terms like “The Borg Collective” that so accurately mirror the Progressives – even the “As part of a hive-mind, any and all aspects of individuality are expelled from a being once they are assimilated into the Progressive Collective” and “An individuals’ attributes are only useful insofar as they further the aims of the Collective, not themselves.” We see almost daily what the Progressive Borg does to public figures who, in the smallest way, do not cleave to the dogma: “all aspects of individuality are expelled from a being once they are assimilated into the Progressive Collective.” The GWSA has proclaimed itself the Truth and the Light. Dispute is Anathema. The Heretic will be Demonized, Shunned, Silenced (and fired).

    • Perhaps Progressives and like minded “democrats” should from now on just be referred to as: “The Borg”

      Sounds good to me.

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