McClaughry: The ‘thermal energy efficiency’ tax is coming

By John McClaughry

A majority of the Vermont Legislature believes that “a climate emergency threatens our communities, state, and region and poses a significant threat to human health and safety, infrastructure, biodiversity, our common environment, and our economy.” (Act 156, 2020).

The chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, Sen. Christopher Bray, D-Addison, expounds further: “The devastating consequences of climate change, however hard to perceive and respond to, cannot be overstated: it wreaks havoc on all living things in the form of extreme storm, droughts and floods, massive wildfires, failed crops, extinctions, damaging invasive species, and the creation of climate refugees.”

John McClaughry

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Today’s climate warriors believe that because of our ignorance, selfishness and greed, human-caused “climate change” has put Earth in desperate straits, and only a desperate remedy holds any hope of fending off the “horrid future” facing our grandchildren.

Politicians determined to make everyone suffer atonement for our collective sins have discovered the Great Solution to defeat climate change: the carbon tax. That’s a heavy and increasing tax on all carbon-based fuels, like gasoline, diesel fuel, heating oil, propane and natural gas. The higher fuel prices will drive people to find other ways to heat their homes and get to work, school, church and medical care. And all the time the carbon tax is marching upwards to force more atonement, it’s producing tax dollars that politicians can spend! What a wonderful and virtuous idea!

But a straight-up carbon tax has one great vulnerability: aside from those who have enrolled themselves in the climate change movement, Vermonters do not want their politicians to saddle them with new taxes on their carbon-based fuels, especially when they’re battling a real menace, the pandemic.

After the push for the carbon tax fizzled out in 2018, the climate change game turned to enacting a carbon tax by disguising it as something else. The latest version is called “the Thermal Energy Efficiency Charge,” and Sen. Bray has become its most ardent promoter.

The new feature is that Sen. Bray & Co., mindful of what happened to earlier carbon tax schemes, changed the name of the tax to “Thermal Energy Efficiency Charge.”

In fact, Sen. Bray’s draft bill systematically replaces the word “tax” with “charge,” to make sure no one gets the silly idea that this is another carbon tax. Sen. Bray wants the “charge” set high enough to extract $1.3 billion over 10 years, to fund 120,000 home weatherization projects that even he concedes could be financed from the efficiency savings that homeowners would enjoy.

The new Senate leadership repopulated Sen. Bray’s committee in January to make sure that none of its members is likely to raise any serious questions about the menace of climate change and the need for never-ending streams of tax dollars to defeat it.

Veteran Sen. Dick Mc Cormack, D-Windsor, has long been an ardent climate warrior. But to his credit, at a meeting of the committee last month he balked at the dissimulation: “Do we want to call this money that we’re going to be charging people an efficiency fee? I think it’s a tax. … It’s going to be seen as a carbon pollution tax and I think that’s accurate and we’re going to end up having to defend that policy anyway … in which case maybe we should own it and come out swinging.”

If Sen. Bray’s misnamed “charge” is a tax — and it is — two other problems appear. First, our Vermont Constitution requires that bills for raising revenue must originate in the House, not the Senate. Further, Sen. Bray’s “charge” would be levied not by the Legislature, but by the appointive Public Utility Commission, a practice I have described as “taxation by unaccountable strangers.”

That practice dates to 1999, when the Legislature gave the PUC the power to levy an energy efficiency charge on your power bill, in whatever amount it might find necessary to promote electricity conservation. Sen. Bray’s “Vermonter’s Enhanced Energy Savings Act” would give the PUC similar power to levy his “Thermal Energy Efficiency Charge.” That tax would bear little or no relationship to the PUC’s duty to regulate the electricity system.

The Bray bill is an unconstitutional delegation of the Legislature’s power to tax. The bill is designed to allow the “unaccountable strangers” of the PUC to raise taxes that our state constitution says can only be done by elected legislators accountable to the people. Legislators who took an oath to support the constitution need to reacquaint themselves with that provision — and their constituents need to remind them to do it.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Images courtesy of Public domain and John McClaughry

24 thoughts on “McClaughry: The ‘thermal energy efficiency’ tax is coming

  1. Here is another gem regarding those EXPENSIVE CANADIAN electric school buses, that reduce CO2 at $2,910 per metric ton.

    This is NOT a misprint.

    Please let the Governor know, before he falls into another trap, or is led astray.

    All members of the legislators, plus many committee members know this, because they have received copies of my article.
    Almost all refuse to even read it.

    They are being deceived, up and down, left and right, by deceptive reports prepared by their favorite RE “Think Tanks”, that crank out
    RE-friendly CYA reports.

    VEIC “On-Paper” Simulation to Reduce Electric Bus Energy Costs

    Because the energy operating costs of the electric bus were significantly greater than of the diesel bus, VEIC performed an “on-paper” simulation to make the electric buses look much better than the diesel buses. The “on-paper” reduced:

    – Electric bus charging costs
    – Eliminate all demand charges. See Note and Canadian real-world experience

    Buses are parked most of the time during a school day, and during Xmas vacation, Spring break, summer, 2 or 3-day weekends, and holidays. All-together, they are use about 5 h/d x 180d / 8766 h/y = 10.3% of the year.

    VEIC is assuming no charging of batteries and protection from cold is required during all these hours, and none of these hours would be during peak demands!! See page 36 of URL

    Demand charges are imposed by the utility on users that have high levels of consumption during a billing period.
    Demand charges were 2608/(4110 + 2608) = 39% of the total electricity bills. See page 35 of URL

    Quote from VEIC report: Using a bus operating efficiency of 1.47 kWh/mile, the schools’ electric rates, hours of bus use, and mileage, VEIC was able to estimate the cost savings available if charging were to be managed to a minimum number of hours, outside of peak demand times.

    Bus total energy costs would have been $0.22 / mile and efficiency 1.47 kWh / mile, much closer to Lion bus purported operating efficiency of 1.3 – 1.4 kWh/mile.

    VEIC Error No. 1

    The quote compares kWh AC/mile (from wall plug) with kWh DC/mile (from battery); apples vs oranges
    Lion electric bus efficiency is 1.3 to 1.4 kWh DC/mile.
    In cold-climate Vermont it would be 1.390 kWh DC/mile. See Note and table 1.

    If VEIC had meant 1.47 kWh DC/mile, the draw from a wall outlet would have been about 1.36, charging ratio x 1.47 = 2.0 kWh AC/mile, which would have cost 26 c/mile, plus cabin heating of 3.8 c/mile, a total of 29.8 c/mile (excludes any demand charges), which is much greater than the VEIC “calculated” 22 c/mile. See table 1

    Quote from Canadian Electric Bus Study:

    British Columbia Hydro has filed an application with the BC Utilities Commission for a special rate for fleet charging. They are proposing to eliminate the demand charge for the Large General Service rate, which would reduce that cost of charging a school bus by as much as half depending on the power rating of the chargers used.

    If a BC school district, with a mild climate, requires charging of electric buses during peak demand hours for normal operations, why would VEIC make a risky assumption, all charging during peak demand hours would not be required in Vermont, with a cold climate?

    If a BF school district uses 15,196 kWh AC/bus to travel 8,709 miles/bus, or 1.745 kWh AC/mile
    At a cost of 13 c/kWh, the electricity cost would be 32 c/mile (includes cabin heating), much greater than the VEIC “calculated” 22 c/mile (includes cabin heating)

    NOTE: Lion states kWh DC/mile, because Lion does not know how and where the buses would be operated, i.e., uncontrolled charging in cold climates and hilly terrain, or controlled charging in warm climates and level terrain.


    1) VEIC needs to clarify the quote (in italics)
    2) The VEIC report needs to be revised

    VEIC Error No. 2

    As a result of the risky assumption, the VEIC “on-paper” simulation yielded a miraculous 1.47 kWh AC/mile, The VEIC “on-paper” simulation reduced the electric bus 52 c/mile to 22 c/mile. See tables 1 and 2.

    Interrupting the protection of expensive batteries is not an option. See above Charging Electric Buses During Cold Daytimes and Night-times

    The VEIC assumption led to a charging percent of only 1.47 kWh AC/1.390 kWh DC = 5.8%.
    That charging percent is not just too low. It is a physical impossibility!!

    The Canadian SSI Program, with a mild climate, had a real-world ratio of 31.7%. See tables 1 and 4

    That charging percent would be 5.8/17.5 = 33% of the values of Teslas and other EVs.
    See URL and charging percent of four real-world examples in Appendix

    NOTE: The typical 17 to 18 percent loss for charging EV cars would not apply to school buses, because:

    1) They have about 90% of the hours of a year as idle time, and likely would be parked outdoors,
    2) They are required to provide high reliability of service on Monday morning, even after they have been parked on Saturday and Sunday, especially during cold days.


    1) VEIC-calculated operating costs and CO2 emissions are invalid.
    2) The VEIC report should be revised.

    Electric School Bus Feasibility Study in Salt Spring Island District, British Columbia

    This SSI study involves 10 Lion electric school buses. The bold values are from the SSI report.
    The buses averaged 1.745 kWh AC/mile; mild climate.
    This proves the VEIC 1.47 kWh AC/mile made an “erroneous” assumption that led to the deceptively low 22 c/mile for the electric bus
    The electricity in the battery was 1.745/1.317, charging ratio = 1.325 kWh DC/mile. See table 1

    SSI assumed 3.5 km/liter, or 8.19 mile/gal, for its diesel buses, which appears high.

    The BC grid is 92% hydro; CO2 emissions 9 g/kWh, a very “clean” grid, which results in higher CO2 reduction than for the NE grid, which has 334 g/kWh, at the wall outlet.
    See spreadsheet in URL

  2. Again, theirs is the Aristotelian definition of ‘hubris’… the overweening presumption that leads a person to disregard the divinely fixed limits on human action in an ordered cosmos.

    Maybe they’ll come to their senses. Or maybe they’ll take their own advice to the extreme before forcing us to do so, leaving us ignorant ones alone to suffer the consequences of our mis-directed existence here on a fouled planet Earth.

    Of course, the real problem occurs when they try to take us with them.

    They’ll have to find me first. 🙂

  3. Federal COVID Money for Expensive Electric School Buses

    The Governor and bureaucrats are throwing COVID money, meant for suffering households and businesses, into another climate-fighting black hole.

    Vermont has cold winters, and hills, and snow-covered roads, and dirt roads in rural areas; kWh/mile would be high. The expensive electric buses may need 4-wheel-drive, or all-wheel-drive in rural areas.

    Spending huge amounts of capital various projects that yield minor reductions in CO2, is a recipe for low economic efficiency, and for low economic growth, on a state-wide and nation-wide scale, which would adversely affect state and US competitiveness in markets, and adversely affect living standards and job creation.

    Costs of Government RE Programs

    Vermont’s government engaging in electric bus demonstration programs, financed with COVID money, likely would prove to be expensive undertakings, requiring hidden subsidies, white-washing and obfuscation.

    Lifetime spreadsheets, with 1) turnkey capital costs, 2) annual cashflows, 3) annual energy cost savings, 4) annual CO2 reductions, and 5) cost of CO2 reduction/metric ton, with all assumptions clearly stated and explained, likely will never see the light of day.

    Including Amortizing Capital Cost for a Rational Approach to Projects

    RE proponents do not want to include amortizing costs, because it makes the financial economics of their dubious climate projects appear dismal. This is certainly the case with expensive electric buses. If any private-enterprise business were to ignore amortizing costs, it would be out of business in a short time, per Economics 101

    Capital cost of electric bus, plus charger is $327,500 + $25,000 = $352,500
    Battery system cost is about $100,000, for a 60 to 80-mile range.
    Capital cost of diesel bus is $100,000
    Additional capital cost is 352500 – 100000 = $252,500
    Travel is 12,000 miles/y
    Amortizing was at 3.5%/y for 15 years, equal to the assumed life of batteries and buses

    Amortizing an electric bus $352,500 at 3.5%/y for 15 years would be $30,240/y, or 30240/12000 miles = 252 c/mile
    Amortizing a diesel bus $100,000 would be 8,579/y, or about 8579/12000 miles = 71.5 c/mile

    1) The amortizing assumes the electric buses would be fully utilized, i.e., their travel would be about 12,000 miles/y, the average of diesel school buses in Vermont.

    2) School buses have a very low usage pattern compared to mass-transit buses, i.e., about 2 hours to make a 30 – 40 mile run in the morning, and another 2 hours to make a 30 – 40 mile run in the afternoon, for about 180 days, plus summer school trips.

    3) The capital cost of a complete electric school bus system, with parking facilities, would be much greater than of a complete diesel bus system, with buses parked on an open field with a diesel fuel pump.

    4) The cost of amortizing the very large capital cost difference of a complete electric bus system vs a complete diesel bus system, would overwhelm any operating cost reduction that might occur, i.e., replacing low-cost diesel buses with expensive electric buses would not be cost-effective. See table 1

    Lifetime, A-to-Z Analysis Includes Combustion CO2 + Upstream CO2 + Embodied CO2 + Downstream CO2

    A much more realistic CO2-reduction analysis would be on a lifetime, A-to-Z basis.
    Such analyses regarding electric vehicles have been performed for at least 20 years. Engineers are very familiar with them. They would include:

    1) Upstream CO2 of energy for extraction, processing and transport to a user
    2) Embodied CO2 of expensive batteries, from extraction of materials to installation in a bus
    3) Embodied CO2 of $352,500 electric buses vs $100,000 diesel buses
    4) Embodied CO2 of balance-of-system components
    5) Embodied CO2 of much more expensive electric bus parking facilities, with a Level 2 charger for each bus, than for a diesel bus parking facility with a diesel pump.
    6) Downstream CO2 of disposal of batteries, etc.

    Any CO2 advantage of electric buses vs diesel buses would be minimal on a lifetime, A-to-Z basis.
    The cost of CO2 reduction would be much greater than $2745/metric ton.

  4. Vermont Has Much Better Options


    A state-wide building code, which would require new buildings to be highly sealed, highly insulated so they could easily be energy-surplus buildings, or be entirely off-the -grid. Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, etc., have had such codes for at least a decade.

    Vermont should be replacing run-of-the-mill, old houses, with up-to-date, energy-surplus, off-the-grid, new houses, at a rate of at least 5,000 houses per year. There would be 150,000 such houses by 2050.

    Dabbling at weatherizing, at $10,000 per house, is politically attractive, but a gross waste of money. The goal should be energy conservation and high efficiency. Their combined effect would reduce CO2 at the least cost.


    A gas-guzzler vehicle code, which would impose a fee on 40-mpg vehicles. The more below 40-mpg, the higher the fee. Any vehicles with greater than 40-mpg, such as the 54-mpg Toyota Prius, would be exempt.

    “Break their will” RE zealots would have everyone drive unaffordable EVS, that would not reduce much CO2 compared with efficient gasoline vehicles.

    On a lifetime, A-to-Z basis, with travel at 105,600 miles over 10 years, the CO2 emissions would be:

    NISSAN Leaf S Plus, EV, compact SUV, no AWD, would emit 25.967 Mt
    TOYOTA Prius L Eco, 62 mpg, compact car, no AWD, would emit 26,490 Mt
    SUBARU Outback, 30 mpg, medium SUV, with AWD, would emit 43.015 Mt
    VT Light Duty Vehicle mix, 22.7 mpg, many with AWD or 4WD, would emit 56,315 Mt

    Future VT Light Duty Vehicle Mix

    If the VT LDV mix, gasoline and hybrid vehicles, average mileage would become 40 mpg (by means of carrots and sticks), CO2 would become about 22.7/40 x 56.315 = 32 Mt over 10y, which is near the CO2 of a Prius L Eco, on a lifetime, A-to-Z basis.

    It would take relatively minor changes to reduce the average CO2 from 56.315 Mt to about 32 Mt, an average reduction of 24 Mt per vehicle. Reducing the average by an additional 4 or 5 Mt would require major changes.

    The future VT LDV mix, as EVS, likely would have an average of about 30 – 35 Mt of CO2, because it would include full-size SUVs with AWD, which have more Mt of CO2, than the NISSAN Leaf S Plus, a compact SUV, without AWD.

    The minor additional metric ton of CO2 reduction could be achieved by going the EV route, but that would involve $billions, and be unaffordable by already struggling households and businesses. See “Electrify Everything”

  5. What always seems missing with all these ways politicians try to get more of our money to spend is just about everything involving “Climate Change” that raises the cost of fuel will also increase the cost of “GROCERIES”. Retailers don’t pay the increase in cost of getting groceries delivered to their store, they just pass the cost on to the groceries we need to buy. WE end up paying for all the ways politicians keep adding so they can spend more of our money on their pie in the sky unsubstantiated ideas. We have the 4th highest property taxes and more dirt roads. They need to figure out how to reduce our taxes and fix our roads and stop wasting our money with all their ways to waste our money. Remember this at election time and as we need to clean up THEIR mess…

    • Yup, tax corporations and the tax is passed onto the product, labor and information. Good ole Sen Burn always states to tax the big bad corporations (some are like FB, Twitter, YouTube / Google for example that don’t produce just provide a captive media service). The Bern uses sheeple to promote himself. He’s a sheeple psychologist. He’s a rags to riches Government employee himself.

      I’ve noticed that Walmart just raised the wage for the employees, prices on some (many) items have increased. What was $0.50 is now $0.76. The creeping inflation. Walmart isn’t doing the employees a favor, the customer is providing the favor. SS income (due to increase costs) is getting less and less. Hard to afford VT taxes as well, and more coming.

  6. Real facts about climate change. Also at the Univ of NH there are ice cores taken from Greenland that shows the cycle periods and also show volcanic activity. A lot of data backs up the historical facts. Not some politician telling the sky is falling. This is quite an informative article.

    Solar Cycle 25: The Sun is Heating Up, ofa

    • Mr. Chase, You’ve violated the rule that global warming must not be challenged by science. But since you brought it up…..
      Global warming is not a problem that, if we throw enough money at it and punish ourselves for driving a car and heating our homes, we can create a “solution”, despite what our legislature thinks. It is a natural phenomenon, like the winter being colder than the other seasons. It is a very long-term cyclical thing (approximately 125,000-year cycles). We cannot stop it but I am confident that we can learn to adapt to it, as we have to the cold winters, without punishing Vermonters and destroying our economy.
      About 30 years ago I took a tour of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers CRREL facility in Hanover New Hampshire. That’s the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory. They do a wide range of research on cold conditions, large, scale model submarine ice breaker testing, studying plastics that don’t become so brittle in the cold, how many inches of different stages of snow it takes to stop an M16 bullet. It’s an interesting place.
      Part of the tour was the ice core lab. It looked like a windowless motel. Inside is a narrow corridor with windowless doors, reinforcing the motel aura. But, instead of room numbers, the doors had labels such as “0” “-10” “-30” and the like, indicating the temperature inside. We stopped at one and went in. It was very cold in there. A woman dressed as I would imagine an Eskimo, complete with fur ruff around her hood, was shaving thin slices off an ice core. By analyzing the slices, they learn a lot about the historic climatic conditions on earth.
      Today when we hear “hottest or coldest day on record” it typically refers to the period since the temperature data started to be collected in a systematic fashion. The theory of a thermometer was explained about 500 years ago. The first reliable thermometer was developed in 1714 by Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit, about 300 years ago.
      The ice cores provide a record of what the temperature and other atmospheric conditions were for the period from now back to over 400,000 years ago. Graphs of this data are readily available online such as:

      Those doubting the validity of this can take it up with CRRL.

      • I agree. Long range cycle periods are more important in understanding and perhaps predicting the future of global events. I’m a NH resident since 1978, previously a Vermonter until my USAF enlistment. I still own land in VT. I’ve been told (informed) that the cores drilled go back a million years. There are racks and racks of them. I have done a lot with UNH in researching documents for my projects and knew a helpful professor.

        I’m glad I presented a short comment and link to have your input to the conversation which in turn is informative to others, not only in VT but people in many countries.

        I always violate “rules”, question and research. At 81 I’m still learning and desire to know. My philosophy is “keep the brain cells perking and the body will follow”.

        Thank you.

  7. All weather events are part of the climate change, world is going to end because of us VERMONTERS!

    The solution? more communism!

    Notice they won’t offer zero interest?
    How about a great tax deduction for the same?

    nope, we need all of your money to spend on programs! Some how money gets lost along the way,,, funny how that works.

  8. thanks fully there is legal recourse and reason they call it a tax and not a charge because you cant charge us its against the law.. what you can do is tax us.. but thank you for playing the “Climate change game” please come again…
    Make tar and feathering great again!

  9. Is Sen Bray on a fool’s errand with the thermal energy efficiency tax?…….. A tax that would disproportionally impact BIPOC and other low income Vermonters while doing nothing to mitigate climate change…….Could this be a massive waste of the Legislature’s time, energy and money under Sen Bray’s leadership? It could be if we are to believe the people below.

    President Biden’s climate czar, John Kerry has admitted that the US reducing its emissions to zero wouldn’t make a difference in the global climate change fight. Surely Sen Bray has to believe John Kerry, President Biden’s Number One Man on the climate change issue.

    Then right here in Vermont and serving on the House Energy and Technology Committee, Rep. Scott Campbell has said “No one, least of all me, believes Vermont can stop climate change or even affect climate change.” If Rep. Campbell is correct and “No one……believes Vermont can stop climate change…. this has to include all the members of the House Energy & Tech Committee, who heard all the testimony on the Global Warming Solution Act.

    So Climate Czar John Kerry and Rep Scott Campbell don’t believe climate change can be stopped and then you add in everyone in the group Campbell labeled as “No one….believes Vermont can stop climate change”……..You’ve got a sizable group of non-believers.

    How can Sen Bray ignore all these voices?

    • Cause sen Bray is either a fool, indoctrinated by the RE industry, or he’s on the RE industry lobby list, basically on the take, or both.

      • Tom,

        It is more like “Flat head society”, whose members PRETEND they cannot see the forest for the trees.

        The subsidy-grabbing, RE-grifter/grafter-friends and families will be all over them, if they do not play ball, i.e., if they would not perform “CONSTITUENT SERVICE”, as the RE G/Gs were promised on the QT, during sumptuous lunch/dinners at private country clubs.

        Most of these committee Members likely were bought and paid for, because otherwise they would no act so stupidly.

        In 2022, a bunch of them have to be voted out, to finally end those Shumlin/Klein shenanigans.

  10. “The devastating consequences of climate change… cannot be overstated” and Senator Bray proceeds with the hauteur of a Progressive dogmatist to do what he has just pronounced impossible.

    • The world is going to end is the oldest trick in the book, they’ve just gotten much better at it. Mayans, Egyptians, Europe, America every 20 years comes up with a new reason why the world is going to end, all supported by science of course.

      It’s so popular to use by governments a book written two thousand years ago talked about it.

      Those who say they know when the end is coming, know they are a liar.

      Now a ton of corrupt self serving governments have collapsed on a regular basis over these 2,000 years, but the world has yet to end….

  11. The CARBON TAX, call it what it is. It is just another way to FATTEN an already bloated socialist agenda. I am 78 yrs OLD on social INsecurity. 2 YRS ago I used a great amount of my savings to Purchase a High Efficiency Propane Furnace to heat my home. I do have a backup generator for power outages which happens at times. I now Pay a STATE Weatherization Fuel Tax. Who will pay for the conversion of my house to electric heat and cooking???? NOT ME!!! Our POLITICIANS in MONTPECULAIL should have to live on a limited income instead of their $750 a week plus perks.

  12. When I went to get my Vermont State inspection Sticker I found a charge on the bill called “ Smog Fee”which cost me $6.00. I had no choice! Anyone know what this is and who gets the money??

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