Meg Hansen: Clean Heat Standard increases carbon emissions, penalizes the middle class

By Meg Hansen

The Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) requires Vermont to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by specific amounts by 2025, 2030, and 2050. Failure to meet these mandatory targets would allow any person to sue the state, at taxpayers’ expense, for non-compliance. The GWSA appointed a 23-member Vermont Climate Council to create an action plan.

Meg Hansen

Meg Hansen is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Of the Council’s 200 recommendations, the Clean Heat Standard (CHS) bill has received the most attention. It has been passed by the Vermont House, will likely glide through the Senate, and soon reach the governor’s desk. If the CHS is enacted, Vermont will become the first state in the nation to regulate all fossil-based home heating fuels. An unelected 3-member Public Utilities Commission (PUC) — not the Legislature — will craft the details and administer the program.

The CHS puts the “polluter pays” principle into practice by forcing companies that sell fossil-based heating fuels to 1) switch to bioenergy, namely, biofuels and wood burning systems; or 2) pay for weatherization projects and installing electric cold-climate heat pumps. Small and family-owned fuel dealers will have to slap the extra costs onto consumers. The aim is to make fossil fuels so expensive and inaccessible that Vermonters will be forced to heat their homes with substitutes.

Biofuels and Wood are Not Carbon Neutral

Biofuels are made from plants and agricultural waste (e.g. corn ethanol and soybean biodiesel), and methane recaptured from organic waste, treated wastewater, livestock, and farms. Though these fuels are renewable, they are not carbon free. Biofuel combustion emits about the same amount of CO2 per unit of energy as petroleum; burning wood releases more carbon than coal or natural gas; and methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that warms the planet by 86 times as much as CO2.

Proponents believe that biofuels are inherently carbon neutral, i.e. clean, because the CO2 released when they are burned is 100 percent equal to the CO2 that was removed from the atmosphere by the plants when they were alive. In a groundbreaking study, however, DeCicco et al. disproved the assumption of carbon neutrality by showing that the CO2 uptake by plants offsets merely 37 percent of the CO2 emitted when they are burned as biofuel (Climatic Change, August 2016).

Vermont policymakers are therefore wrong to exclude the carbon emitted during biofuel and wood combustion. Due to this omission, the bill underestimates the GHG emission impact of replacing fossil fuels with bioenergy. It is not their only mistake.

Counting Emissions From Land Use Conversion 

The CHS bill states that the PUC will hire third-party consultants to determine the total carbon emitted by various biofuels. This lifecycle analysis (LCA) will calculate the GHG emissions related to producing, transporting, and consuming the fuel. It will not, however, count the high emissions caused by converting agricultural land to grow crops like corn and soybean for biofuel production.

Previous LCA studies on biofuels, which informed the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (2005) and California’s Low-Carbon Fuel Standard (2009), underestimated the emissions impact of land use conversion. On account of new modeling that corrects these critical accounting errors, we now know that biofuels release greater GHG emissions than fossil fuels.

When rainforests and grasslands are cleared to grow biofuel crops, the carbon stored in the soil and plants is released as CO2. Fargione et. al showed that altering natural ecosystems into cropland releases 17 to 420 times more CO2 than the annual GHG reductions that these biofuels would provide by replacing fossil fuels (Science, Feb. 2008). A more recent study found that corn ethanol (the most common biofuel) emits at least 24 percent more carbon than gasoline (PNAS, Feb. 2022).

John DeCicco (University of Michigan Energy Institute) stated bluntly in an interview, “When it comes to the emissions that cause global warming, biofuels are worse than gasoline. The underpinnings of policies used to promote biofuels for reasons of climate have now been proven to be scientifically incorrect. … Hard data, straight from America’s croplands, now confirm the worst fears about the harm that biofuels do to the planet.” Disregarding the evidence, Vermont lawmakers purport that the CHS will achieve the carbon reduction targets by forcing Vermonters to burn carbon intensive fuels. Do they want the CHS to increase the state’s net carbon emissions and run afoul of the GWSA?

Curbing Consumption

The question that the Vermont Climate Council and legislators are attempting to answer using schemes like the CHS is not, “How do we heat homes and power cars without fossil fuels?” Rather it is, “How do we get most Vermonters to live in smaller homes and drive fewer cars?” Curbing society-wide consumption is the only way to curb carbon emissions. But it will not occur voluntarily and cannot be imposed without an imminent threat, as proven by the COVID-19 lockdowns.

The authorities thus settle on penalizing the middle class — a chronically abused demographic that is teetering on extinction in Vermont. Climate Council member Jared Duval demonstrated this punitive impulse when he admitted that the CHS will hurt businesses that sell “as much fossil fuel as you want.” How will bio-alternatives reduce consumption? By shuttering local companies and forcing middle-income workers and families to downsize or leave the state. Ultimately, the Clean Heat Standard will raise carbon emissions and deepen Vermont’s shameful chasm between the wealthy and welfare dependent.

Meg Hansen is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Image courtesy of Meg Hansen
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18 thoughts on “Meg Hansen: Clean Heat Standard increases carbon emissions, penalizes the middle class

  1. Through all the GWSA meetings with all the talk from the experts and special interest groups and the likely hood of imposing high taxes on seniors and middle-income working Vermonters, has anyone shown the actual impact Vermont would have on the total global carbon loading?

    Vermont is approximately 80% forested and 20% developed and as a state we likely eliminate about as much carbon as we produce.

    So, the bottom line is we’ll tax Vermonters into oblivion, to have zero effect on total earth carbon load. Why? To satisfy special interest groups and those who will profit from this scam. Follow the money!

    We have to change these activists’ agenda driven people serving in the Vermont legislature and get back to electing real legislators who care about their constituents not satisfying their personal agendas and placating their special interest groups donners.

    Vermont voters have the power to make change they just need to wake up and see what is really going on and vote the activists out.

    • John L………In regard to your question: “has anyone shown the actual impact Vermont would have on total carbon loading.” The answer is no. If any such analysis has been done by the legislature, Climate Council or anyone else, it has been kept an absolute secret and hidden from the people of Vermont.

      What has been said in writing comes from Democrat Rep. Scott Campbell, a member of the House Committee on Energy and Technology, who heard all of the testimony on the Global warming Solutions Act and knows what Vermont can do about climate change. This is what he wrote to me in November 2021 regarding climate change: “Let me start by repeating that no one, least of all me, believes Vermont can stop climate change — or even affect climate change…….”

      Since November 2021, I have repeatedly cited Rep. Campbell’s comments regarding Vermont having no impact on climate change on both Truenorthreports and Vermontdaily chronicle. Both John McClaughry and Rob Roper have also repeatedly reported and commented on Campbell’s assertion that Vermont cannot stop or affect climate change.

      Over the past year and a half, neither Rep. Campbell nor anyone else from the legislature, Climate Council or climate change movement has come forward to repudiate Campbell’s remarks that Vermont cannot affect climate change or assert that Vermont can in fact affect climate change.

      So John L, your question is a good one…..It’s a fundamental question that must be answered before forging ahead and spending billions of dollars that will do nothing to affect climate change…….It is a question answered by Rep. Scott Campbell…..A critical question that has been and continues to be ignored by the forces pushing faux climate change remedies.

  2. I think what we need here is a proven net gain for cost analysis of anything coming out of
    the mouths of these un-elected bureaucrats who are making law without being held responsible.
    As stated below they always ignore the toxic lithium when talking about co2 savings, and the damage to the earth mining it and storing it after it’s expended. They also ignore the co2 needed to produce the cars and charging stations and infrastructure to support the golf cart cars that are not meant for rural states in the north where temperatures are below battery efficient levels more often then not.
    It’s obvious this is all about leftist/socialist feelings then actually doing something about the warming scam as they know nothing can be done without China/India/Russia on board which they
    will never be…

    • On the heat pump push why on earth should I give up my fossil fuel fired highly dependable
      heat source to put in a highly not adequate heat source that requires another heat source
      to make up the difference.. Now I have 2 heat sources that require more maintenance and
      and physical work on my part. (wood stove or pellet).
      It makes as much sense as biden buying Russian oil which is manufactured on a much
      lower standard then US oil and then shipping it here requiring more fuel burned to get it across
      the ocean. I think any 5th grader can see the folly in this exercise which is over the heads
      of the current illegal administration. The whole lot of ’em…

    • BDean

      India is being pressured big time to buy oil at $100/barrel from the US, whereas Russia offers as much as India wants at $70/barrel

      The US is engaging in naming and shaming and economic blackmail of India, as it does with Germany and France, who do not want to lose access to the lucrative US market,

      At present, Russia is not importing anything from the EU, UK, and US, whereas, before Ukraine, it was importing more than $200 billion/y, almost all of it from the EU; a major blow to EU export companies

      • Exactly WP, the only things being hurt by sanctions are
        the citizens of the EU and USA. Russia has plenty of
        markets to sell their wares and if Russia/China/India
        want they can collapse the dollar by making all their buys in
        Rubles, Yuan, or Rupee, the dipwads pulling bidens
        strings don’t realize how close they are to driving the US
        dollar out of world monetary top spot.. and the depression
        it will cause..

        • DBean, destroying the dollar and our economy is just what their plan is.

          I have said many times “Don’t vote for people that see Failure as A Success!

          Our nation is being controlled by people that hate it as it was and are ‘Fundamentally Changing It’ said Obama- remember?
          The same people are running the show still.
          They’ll love the depression!
          They have wanted -and creating- a depression.
          Think of the need to grow government that will cause.
          We’ll need a basic universal income, Soviet style housing and all sorts of “solutions”.

  3. Anyone with a working brain knows this act and plan are nonsense and not needed, and will not accomplish what it says it will. That brings us to the question of why they passed it. Are the proponents just simply stupid, or are they evil, or corrupt? Its one of the three or in some cases all three.

    When I think of the great Vermonters in the past, I also think of the evil ones, like Justen Morrill who with his tax act, probably led us to the civil war. It makes me wonder if these liberals know where they are taking the good people and why don’t they care?

  4. The real issue here is that “Carbon Emissions” are somehow damaging the environment.
    What exactly are Carbon Emissions? If it means particulates caused by burning carbon based fuels, then that problem has long been solved. If it means CO2 emissions causing dangerous climates change, then that is entirely another problem which does not exist.

    There is absolutely no published scientific evidence which shows that human CO2 emissions have worsened climate change.

    Here is Section 14.2.2., of the Scientific Section of Third IPCC Report (2001) to prove that they cannot forecast the future:
    “In sum, a strategy must recognise what is possible. In climate research and modelling, we should recognise that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible”.

    Over the years every climate forecast has been wrong. Every single one.

    And yet there are unverified climate models which are being used to support this fallacy. There are also unverified climate models which do not support the fallacy.
    Guess which ones are being used for energy policy?

    The real problem is that massive changes to energy infrastructure policies are being made based on these unproven future assessments as if they had any ability for altering climate change.

    Any policies based on these false assumptions should be discarded.
    Does anyone think that will happen?

    • Same thing as the Covid scamdemic yirgach- and all the “cures” for that.
      Can we see the pattern here yet?

      It’s one shiny squirrel after another for the people to chase.

  5. It is time for the Vermont legislature to pause and listen to Henry Ford’s words ” Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again , this time more intelligently ” . The real existential threat to Vermont is not climate change but is actually the implementation of the GWS Act . Vermont like the rest of this country moved out of the dark ages with the availability of gas, oil and nuclear energy. Pretending that one” must act” because of a law which was based on emotions rather than facts MUST STOP NOW. The clean heat standard is a total absurdity as it threatens the survival of Vermonters on brutally cold days and it threatens their basic comfort during those same dangerous days and nights as the heat pumps are shoulder seasons systems only. The clean heat standard will also discourage young entrepreneurs to invest in the local delivery aspect of the fossil fuel industry and they will be reluctant to face the costly labor and equipment necessary to drive the fuel to Vermont residents. It will de facto kill that industry by making it a very insecure investment. No Vermont does not NEED to reach certain illusory emission goals because the law says so. The law is devious and not based on unambiguous empiric observations nor economic and safety rationale. It is an emotional law but sadly with terribly dangerous physical consequences. Even Bill McKibben, who revisited his comments on nuclear industry, has understood the deadly course our beloved little state is entering. The GWS Act was a stratagem concocted by environmental activists conniving with the renewable industrialists avid for subsidies and supported by a gullible legislature and brainwashed public .In fact it was so well concocted that it included a Dantesque possibility of “anybody suing the State if the goals are not attained “and it used an unelected ” Climate Council “ whose impartiality was never assessed . In order to decrease poverty, the most important task of a government is to provide its population with access to the cheapest source of energy available as well as to a reliable grid. The GWS Act does not provide either. Thank you so much Meg Hansen for your brilliant dialogues on this crucial subject. The survival of Vermont rests on the spreading of the terrifying truth and the false promise of the legislative monster called the GWS Act which must be repealed .

    • Monique

      Double Down of Failure, the Vermont Way. Rah-Rah
      GWSA and CHS are just two of many abominations that screw everyone and benefit the well-connected.

      HEAT PUMPS ARE MONEY LOSERS IN MY VERMONT HOUSE, AS THEY ARE IN ALMOST ALL NEW ENGLAND HOUSES
      https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/heat-pumps-are-money-losers-in-my-vermont-house-as-they-are-in

      My Experience with Heat Pumps in my Well-Insulated, Well-Sealed House

      I installed three heat pumps by Mitsubishi, rated 24,000 Btu/h at 47F, Model MXZ-2C24NAHZ2, each with 2 heads, each with remote control; 2 in the living room, 1 in the kitchen, and 1 in each of 3 bedrooms.

      The HPs have DC variable-speed, motor-driven compressors and fans, which improves the efficiency of low-temperature operation.
      The HPs last about 15 years. Turnkey capital cost was $24,000. GMP, the electric utility, provided a $2,400 subsidy.
      http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/vermont-co2-reduction-of-HPs-is-based-on-misrepresentations

      My house has a wall-hung, efficient, propane furnace to provide: 1) space heating, and 2) domestic hot water, year-round.

      The basement has a near-steady temperature throughout the year, because it has 2” of blueboard, R-10, on the outside of the concrete foundation and under the basement slab; the thermal storage of the concrete acts as a temperature stabilizer, which has saved me many thousands of space heating dollars over 35 years.

      Winter Operation: Downstairs heads are used for space heating during winter. Upstairs heads are always off during winter.
      If the sun is shining, my south-facing house warms up, and the HPs can be turned off by about 10 AM. They are turned on again around 4 to 5 PM

      The basement has two small propane heaters to provide space heat to my 1,300 sq ft basement during winter; that heat rises to warm up the first floor. The heaters require no electricity, which is beneficial during a power outage.

      Summer Operation: The downstairs and upstairs heads are used for space cooling during hot days in summer

      Hourly Operating Cost of HPs Versus Efficient Propane Furnaces

      Cold Weather Test: On 22 January, 2022, the temperature was -20F at my house. As a test, I operated my kitchen heat pump. After about 15 minutes, there was lukewarm air coming from the wall-mounted unit, but it was much less warm, than it would be at, say 15F. That lukewarm air did not heat my kitchen from 6 AM to 9 AM, so I turned off the HP and turned on my wall-hung, propane heater.

      Conclusion: 1) The name cold-climate HP is merely an advertising gimmick, and 2) HPs are economic:

      1) Down to about 15F to 20F in my well-sealed, well-insulated house, depending on wind and sun conditions
      2) Down to about 28F to 35F in average Vermont houses, which are energy hogs, by modern standards

      • Addition to comment:

        Any experienced energy systems engineer can readily calculate the hourly cost of operating heat pumps and propane furnaces.

        The HP operating cost per hour would become greater than of an efficient propane furnace, because HPs would become increasingly less efficient with decreasing temperatures. See table 3

        Energy Cost Reduction Due to HPs is Minimal

        – HP electricity consumption was from my electric bills
        – Vermont electricity prices, including taxes, fees and surcharges, are about 20 c/kWh.
        – My HPs provide space heat to 2,300 sq ft, about the same area as an average Vermont house
        – Two small propane heaters provide space heat to my 1,300 sq ft basement
        – I operate my HPs at temperatures of 15F to 20F, or greater; less $/h than propane
        – I operate my wall-hung propane heater at temperatures of 15F to 20F, or less; less $/h than HP

        – My average HP coefficient of performance, COP, was 2.64
        – My HPs required 2,489 kWh to displace 35% of my fuel.
        – My HPs would require 8,997 kWh, to replace 100% of my fuel.

        – The average Vermont house COP is about 3.34, because the HPs typically operate at about 28F to 35F and above
        – The average Vermont house requires 2,085 kWh to displace 27.6% of its fuel, per VT-DPS/CADMUS survey. See URL

        https://afdc.energy.gov/files/u/publication/fuel_comparison_chart.pdf
        https://www.nature.com/articles/s41597-019-0199-y
        https://acrpc.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/HeatPumps-ACRPC-5_20.pdf

        Before HPs: I used 100 gal for domestic hot water + 250 gal for 2 stoves in basement + 850 gal for Viessmann furnace, for a total propane of 1,200 gal/y

        After HPs: I used 100 gal for DHW + 250 gal for 2 stoves in basement + 550 gal for Viessmann furnace + 2,489 kWh of electricity.

        My propane cost reduction for space heating was 850 – 550 = 300 gallon/y, at a cost of 2.339/gal = $702/y
        My displaced fuel was 100 x (1 – 550/850) = 35%, which is better than the Vermont average of 27.6%
        My purchased electricity cost increase was 2,489 kWh x 20 c/kWh = $498/y

        My energy cost savings due to the HPs were 702 – 498 = $204/y, on an investment of $24,000!!

        Amortizing Heat Pumps

        Amortizing the $24,000 turnkey capital cost at 3.5%/y for 15 years costs about $2,059/y.
        This is in addition to the amortizing of my existing propane system. I am losing money.
        https://www.myamortizationchart.com

        Other Annual Costs

        There likely would be service calls and parts for the HP system, as the years go by.
        This is in addition to the annual service calls and parts for my existing propane system. I am losing more money.

  6. A study by German scientists find electric vehicles are responsible over the ten year expected battery life of adding 11% to 28% more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than their Diesel counterparts when energy requirements including battery production are considered. The AGW religion is dogmatic. “Truth!” is by ex cathedra pronouncements. If they decided the universe is geocentric, dissenters would be persecuted, demonized and shunned. We’ve seen that happen. Like people who disagree with their Global Warming gospel. Do not forget Joe Biden’s pronouncement: “We accept truth over facts.” That’s their dogmatic truth, not veridical truth.

  7. Meg maybe the question should be “Why does the Vermont Government want average Vermonters to drop dead?”

    How is anyone allowed to thrive in Vermont anymore given the stunning amount of insane, life depriving regulations put upon the people?

    • “Why does the Vermont Government want average Vermonters to drop dead?” – I can’t supply the answer, but other cult religions have also driven their adherents to kill themselves. You may have some success, get some insight by reviewing psychological studies on other dogmatic cult religions.
      Charles MacKay: “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds” is an interesting read on the subject.

  8. You mean Legislators would have to dismantle Vermont’s bio fuel programs, because the underlying premises are a bunch of easily adopted lies.

    That will never happen.

    They would merely increase the size of loudspeakers that befuddle the naive lay public, and would use COVID funds to double the budgets of the programs, just for in-your-face spite.

    We have to go to the polls en masse, and vote in person, and watch the counting in Dem/Prog-controlled towns, 24/7, for days, to try to minimize shenanigans.

    • Cleaning up the Voter rolls would also be a good start. Unfortunately Vermont uses the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) to clean it’s voter rolls. Originally funded by the Soros Open Society, it is now responsible for cleaning the voter rolls in 31 States. Oddly, ERIC has no requirement or mandate that member States clean up their voter rolls. States are only “strongly encouraged” to request ERIC’s voter updates at least once a year. If a member fails to make a request in 425 days, the data will be sent automatically. What’s even more odd, and seemingly corrupt, is that ERIC does NOT want to know who is voting illegally. Their rules explain that “Under no circumstances shall the members transmit any record indicating an individual is a non-citizen of the U.S.” as stated in Exhibit A, 2b. If ERIC hears no evil, then they see no evil.
      https://yournews.com/2022/01/21/2285284/whos-cleaning-our-voter-rolls-soros-founded-and-funded-eric/

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