McClaughry: A new front in the endless battle against climate change

By John McClaughry

The Long Range Transportation Plan of 1995 reaffirmed as the highest priority the maintenance and improvement of Vermont’s highways and bridges. Hardly anyone disagreed. But beginning in earnest in 2006, climate change activists have succeeded in progressively shifting the emphasis of transportation policy toward reducing CO2 emissions and defeating climate change.

Gasoline and diesel fueled-transportation contributes 43 percent of Vermont’s carbon dioxide emissions. This year’s Transportation bill announces this controlling policy:

John McClaughry

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

“This act includes the State’s fiscal year 2020 transportation investments intended to reduce transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, reduce fossil fuel use, and save Vermont households money in furtherance of the goals of the Comprehensive Energy Plan, and to satisfy the Executive and Legislative Branches’ commitments to the Paris Agreement climate goals.”

The Paris Agreement established CO2 emission quotas for 195 countries, and obliged developed countries like the U.S. to collectively hand over $100 billion a year to persuade the others to pretend to comply. It was signed by President Barack Obama in 2015 but never sent to the Senate for ratification. President Donald Trump bailed the U.S. out in 2017, and after four years only seven of those 195 countries are actually on track to comply. Under pressure from enviros, Gov. Phil Scott announced in 2017 that Vermont will, in a gesture of climate solidarity, drive down our emissions to our pro-rated share of the U.S. contribution.

Most of the $286 million (plus federal funds) in the fiscal year 2020 Transportation budget will of course continue to pay for highway and bridge maintenance, but a trip through the transportation bill shows how the emphasis has shifted.

The climate activists urgently believe that Vermonters must be lured or taxed out of their gasoline and diesel vehicles in favor of electric cars. Thus the bill offers more Plug-in Electric Vehicle (PEV) purchase and lease incentives “to help all Vermonters to benefit from electric driving, including Vermont’s most vulnerable.” If your family has under 160 percent of the 5-year average Median Household Income, you can qualify for subsidies to allow you to buy a PEV that costs up to $40,000.

After three studies, the legislature has still not figured out how to make PEV drivers pay anything at all for using the public highways. The present bill does allow state agencies to set fees for the electricity downloaded from state charging stations, which is an improvement over the present practice of just giving it away.

Of special interest is the 17 percent increase in public transportation spending, which includes $1.884 million to pay for two electric transit buses for the Burlington area, and $480,000 for two electric shuttle buses for the Montpelier area. Other new “low-carbon spending initiatives” include 77 bike/pedestrian projects and increasing the number of electric vehicles in the 734-vehicle state fleet from 54 to 367.

The bill mandates a study of a “feebate” program, whereby persons who buy larger and safer but less fuel-efficient cars are charged a “fee” (aka “tax”), and the proceeds are rebated to the purchasers of smaller, less safe, more fuel efficient, and more electrified vehicles.

Then there’s the eternal passenger rail fantasy. The bill assigns $5.2 million to upgrade the Rutland to Burlington track for future passenger traffic. The memory of Gov. Howard Dean’s $28 million Champlain Flyer boondoggle seems to have vanished beyond recovery, along with a million dollars worth of improvements pocketed by the owner of the Burlington train station.

Particularly interesting is the requirement of a study to support a seven-mile Barre to Montpelier commuter rail project. This was urged upon legislators by wind and solar mogul David Blittersdorf, who bought five elderly self-propelled Budd cars and wants to convert them from museum pieces into income-producing assets.

Finally, the bill endorses the Scott administration’s participation in the group designing the Transportation Climate Initiative. This will be a multistate cap-and-trade plan regulating and taxing the transportation use of fossil fuels. Each state would use the windfall proceeds to pay for “low-carbon and more resilient transportation infrastructure.”

When Democratic candidate Sue Minter proposed a TCI in a 2016 campaign debate, Scott immediately and correctly labelled it a carbon tax. Why he is actively supporting TCI development now remains a mystery.

There are some useful provisions in the bill, notably excusing 16-year-old vehicles from computerized inspection failures that have nothing to do with safe operation. But overall the bill illustrates how defeating climate change and suppressing CO2 emissions have come to overshadow the basic function of AoT — to preserve and maintain a network of highways to meet the transportation needs of the Vermonters who are paying the bills.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Images courtesy of Bruce Parker/TNR and John McClaughry
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10 thoughts on “McClaughry: A new front in the endless battle against climate change

  1. When will Trump announce a full audit of the “Klinton Foundation”

    Full of our enemies money, money spent on fully political things not legal for any foundation

  2. Sure gasoline and dieisel account for 43% of carbon dioxide emissions in Vermont, BUT that amount in negligible in the bigger picture. Time to move on and deal with real issues such as the rising cost of education, raises for teachers without tieing them to outcome, the continual riise in taxes and fees to fund feel good projects, the need to establish a more business friendly climate, and this is just the tip of the iceburg. Electric buses @$900,000 a piecce? Now your talking real lunacy. You cJiman’t make this stuff up.

    • Where in hell are we going to ‘find’ enough over NIGHT electricity for an entire Vermont fleet of electric only vehicles. How long will electricity hold until the power lines and the generation capacity overwhelmed!. How long does electricity last in the power lines, when electric generation quits. Not one second.

      Close ALL Nuclear and Go All electric!! Smartest plan ever conceived in history

      One good way is to cut the state vehicle fleet in half, and lay off the half of workers who seem to do make-work to harass the population, taxes, vehicle inspections, child care rules – the list of harassments is ENDLESS

  3. If David Blittersdorf wants to run train service from Barre to Montpelier, I say let him, but there should be NO assistance. If he can make it work on his own… good for him. I want nothing to do with it $$$$$$.

  4. “$1.884 million to pay for two electric transit buses for the Burlington area, and $480,000 for two electric shuttle buses for the Montpelier area”

    Idiocy in action. A million a bus and 1/2 a mill per shuttle. No wonder Blittersdork is going
    for a train with that kind of money floating out of our budget. Have any of the dweebs
    proposing these outrageous spending sums explained how much of VTs evil carbon
    (plant food) these over priced people movers would expel?

  5. 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. I’m absolutely certain that the AGW confederacy considers that demonic heresy that violates their dogma. The conviction that they can control the climate belongs in the annals of alchemy and sorcery – despite their success in thwarting the impending ice age of the seventies.

    • Another study in Europe used the same diesel test method the US used on VW diesels on gas powered vehicles. They found that gas power vehicles are putting more and more dangerous pollution then diesel vehicles. — And not one of the green environmentalists or the EPA cares.

  6. Meanwhile the National Park Service has taken down the signs at Glacier National park saying the glaciers will be gone in 2020 (they are actually growing), and NASA tell us the glaciers are also growing on Greenland and the Antarctic. — Which means to entire theory of CO2 is deeply flawed and none of the believers can comprehend facts that don’t follow their wishful beliefs.

    • Well stated but that will not shake their agenda. It’s no different than the gun issues.
      They don’t want want to listen to the facts.

      • “has taken down the signs at Glacier”

        More ERASURE of the Obamanation’s ruinous administration. The
        global hoax was at the forefront of that corrupt administration which
        hijacked all government agencies to spread climatetardism. Where
        did obala get the billions that he sent to Iran? Wheres the 6 billion
        missing from hitlery’s corrupt state dept? For the snot nose big eared failure of a leader to say zero corruption show’s what a
        Zero he is…

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