Non-tax carbon mitigation schemes could still cost hundreds of millions

Michael Bielawski/TNR

COMES AT A COST: Rick Weston, principal and director of policy for The Regulatory Assistance Project, speaks to the House Energy and Technology Committee on Tuesday, March 12, 2019.

MONTPELIER — The director of policy for The Regulatory Assistance Project on Tuesday told the House Energy and Technology Committee that any carbon mitigation programs are going to come with a big cost to taxpayers.

In a discussion over non-pricing approaches to reducing carbon emissions in Vermont, committee members heard from Rick Weston, the principal and policy director for The Regulatory Assistance Project. The goal for the state is to get to an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050.

“One thing we’ve learned in Vermont and around the world is that the cheapest thing that we can do to save energy, to avoid emissions and to save money, is to invest in increased energy efficiency. We’ve been extremely successful with that around the world and here in this state,” Weston said.

None of the measures discussed include the carbon tax, which has become politically unpopular even for the green-conscious state of Vermont. Weston noted the Western Climate Initiative projects carbon pricing plans amount to the least carbon mitigation per cost to society, because the added cost doesn’t seem to significantly impact people’s day-to-day energy habits.

“By our analysis, the number of tons avoided through the behavioral changes only that a pricing scheme would create, the cost of that program, in terms of the number of tons actually avoided, is $403 per ton,” he said.

By comparison, the cost per ton of avoided carbon resulting from increased electric vehicle (EV) incentives amounts to just $16 per ton. He said the cost of carbon avoided per ton via weatherization of homes is actually a $142 benefit due to long-term energy savings.

That’s not to say there are not substantial costs associated with non-carbon pricing methods. Five initiatives were examined which would lower emissions via weatherization and heating programs. If all five were enacted, over 10 years the total cost would be $600 million.

“The average cost per year if you were to run all five of these programs is $60 million per year,” Weston told the committee.

These five include low-income weatherization, non-low-income weatherization, greater adoption of cold climate heat pumps and heat pump water heaters, and greater adoption of wood pellet heating systems for schools.

That figure does not include the cost for greater investment in EV technology, which Weston estimates will total $70 million in purchase incentives if adoption rates are to meet a 12-year target of 137,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030.

“$70 million is what would be needed to equalize the cost of electric cars on a total cost basis,” Weston said. “That includes the cost of electricity, that includes the savings in gasoline, it includes [all other variables].”

Weston maintained that promoting EVs still gets some of the best carbon reduction per-dollar ($16 per ton avoided) compared with other carbon mitigation strategies.

During discussion, Rep. R. Scott Campbell, D-St. Johnsbury, noted that running cars off electricity is not necessarily saving Vermonters money compared to gas-powered vehicles.

“There’s a lot more complication here,” he said. “At the current price of electricity, it’s actually not cheaper to run an electric car than it is for a gasoline car. … I did the math, and we have a motor car.”

Campbell noted that at least six electric vehicle owners were sitting at the committee table. He suggested in order to increase the adoption of EVs, there may need to be some sort of electricity subsidy to mitigate charging costs.

Weston noted that utilities such as Green Mountain Power offer special off-peak charging programs that allow EV charging at a substantial discount during late night hours when grid demand is dramatically reduced.

On another topic of discussion, Rep. Mark Higley, R-Lowell, questioned whether cold heat pumps are going to benefit customers. He noted they often require a back-up heating system for colder temperatures when heat pumps don’t perform well.

“So there’s maintenance on two systems now and I’ve seen some calculations that there are not savings,” Higley said. “It may be savings in the long-run for carbon emission reductions, but as far as [the homeowner is concerned], as a matter of fact, it’s substantially more.”

Weston suggested that buttoning up homes first via weatherization substantially reduces the risk of cold heat pump failure.

In all, Rep. Timothy Briglin, D-Thetford and chair of the committee, said after having heard all about the cost and benefits of carbon taxes, these other non-tax plans seemed preferable.

“I’m surprised by the modesty of the investment that’s required relative to what we’ve been talking about around this building for a couple of years now,” he said. ” … Some of the strategies that we’ve looked at for pricing, they’ve got to be pretty significant in order to really change people’s behavior.”

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story listed the annual cost of running five programs as $16 million, with a 10-year amount of $160 million. The correct amounts are $60 million annually, with a 10-year cost of $600 million.

Image courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR

11 thoughts on “Non-tax carbon mitigation schemes could still cost hundreds of millions

  1. So, I guess we, the taxpayers are fleeced with any scenario. Any carbon mitigation legislation will of course exempt the State Government, the single greatest transportation based polluter in the State. Whether you consider the State Government as the largest employer in the State with the highest levels of commuters, and / or the operator of the largest quantities of vehicles, all those State owned pieces of rolling stock, it is the State as a single entity that contributes most to emissions across the State. The State Government contributions to pollution of course are only compounded when considering the footprint of all the State facilities. Where is the leadership by example and efforts to realize mitigation against the State Government, before lashing another burden to the tax payer’s back?

  2. “Some of the strategies that we’ve looked at for pricing, they’ve got to be pretty significant in order to really change people’s behavior.”

    The word is COERCION to change people’s behavior.

    “Campbell noted that at least SIX electric vehicle owners were sitting at the committee table. He suggested in order to increase the adoption of EVs, there may need to be some sort of electricity subsidy to mitigate charging costs.”

    These people know:
    Pure EVs do not perform well going uphill with one or two passengers on a cold day in Vermont, plus
    EVs DO NOT HAVE 4-wheel drive, plus
    They are much more expensive than equivalent gasoline cars.

    A high mileage gasoline vehicle has about the same FUEL cost per mile as an EV. See URL
    An EV looses 80% of its value after 6 years
    A Subaru outback loses 50% of its value after 6 years.
    Insuring and EV is much more costly than a gasoline vehicle.
    See this URL for a comparison of Tesla EVs

  3. The left has been and still is determined to be sure that any of us with a savings for retirement or some other purpose is drained through the conduit directly connected to the state treasury in Montpeculiar. Everything these D-Progs do is centered around raising taxes and capturing more of our money. A few of the recent headlines pointing to the constant drumbeat for more of our money are listed below:
    1. State of Vt again ranks near bottom in taxes
    2. VT has negative net worth
    3. Medicare for all
    4. Climate Change, Carbon Tax, and associated hidden costs
    For the better part of the last 30 or so years, the left has been in charge of state government in the Green Mountain State. Not a respectable record of achievment particularly in items 1 and 2. Items 3 and 4 are poised to do untold damage to whomever has chosen to stay here and endure the finanacial misery that will be thrust upon us, UNLESS Vermonters have an awakening and get out to vote for the folks who will oppose the nonsense outlined plus predictably, more to be announced. This state is at a crossroads as this is written. My guess is the current legislature will put through all they possibly are able to that centers around the subjects above. We have one more Legislative session next year for the finishing touches. Vermonters need to be ready to go to the mat if saving ourselves and our well being is priority.This will involve a constant communication with legislators telling them that any non-sense is out of order and that supporting legislation that adds to the messes we have is totally unacceptable. And in 2020 we need to clean house in that puzzle palace and get back to common sense and good judgement; which now is sorely lacking. We do this by electing people that will REPRESENT us and our families, not dis-represent us as is now the case.

  4. Energy and Technology Committee that ” any ” carbon mitigation programs are going to come
    with a big cost to taxpayers !!

    That really doesn’t come into play with Liberal DemocRATs, it’s all about the agenda and any
    spending that accrues, oh well according to AOC, we’ve only got twelve years anyways.

    But, it’s your money and they’ll spend it……..If you let them ??

    • And the department of taxes already has been tweaking the tax rules to greatly increase the taxes on higher incomes during the tax years of 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

      How do I know this?
      I asked H&R Block to calculate my state taxes for each of these years,using my 2018 income.
      My state income taxes increased 22% from 2015 to 2018.

      That extra money will pay for other state stupidities, that have yet to be paid for.

      Sending more money, carbon taxes, carbon charges, carbon pollution taxes, carbon fees, to the state so it can fritter it away on expensive programs that have dubious/expensive outcomes for Vermonters, but benefit well-connected companies, heat pumps come to mind, is beyond irrational.

      Subsidizing Electric Vehicles would be thé heights of folly.
      Leave people alone.
      Let them make their own decisions, based on what is good for them, and based on what they can afford.
      Stop sticking your nose into every nook and cranny; we could this, we could do that and on and on it goes.
      Stay home and smell the roses or the bacon.

  5. Big cost to tax payers? Now you’ve come up with just the kind of rationale the Dem/Prog/ Lib wing have been seeking. Great reason to move forward.

  6. Before Tesla died, he was evaluating and figuring out how to transmit electricity thru the air. That would allow all transmission lines to become irrelevant, right? He played with electricity and developed AC current, better than Edison’s DC current. When Tesla died, the Gov confiscated all his papers, no further advancement in that field. Being an engineer, I know of devices that save energy, but people have mysteriously died and many ideas were squashed. A fellow in Austria is developing an energy device / system, away from the patent office (where many ideas get confiscated) and the US Gov. Be interesting. The Gov will keep us in the cave man days with their power and various manipulative outside interests. It’s all there to see.

    VT couldn’t afford to develop wireless transmission, so places like NY or MA might. Then charge VT highly for the juice. The VT legislators would complain about electrical pollution and have an “electrical pollution tax, like the carbon tax. Win win for the Gov either way. So you’re back to square one.

    These so-called “Energy and Technology Committees, et al” are just mouth pieces trying to convince all that they are doing good. You know the rest.

    • I can corroborate what Tom says. According to retired Patent Office official Thomas Vallone, USPTO stashes inconvenient energy patent applications into a Vault in the name of “national security”. What USPTO did to Randell Mill’s hydrino patents was scandalous – although I’m not convinced (after 16 years) that Mills’ theory works. Back around 2003 I pleaded with the incoming USPTO Commissioner James Rogan to get to the bottom of this – but I’m afraid he didn’t. Too bad.

      • Thanks for the comment. I know the patent process very well and have two patents. Wrote the text, researched all the references, drew the diagrams and worked with the patent attorneys. Have many manuals on the how-to-do and the time periods to renewing the patent at the various years to keep it active, more costly as the 20 year deadline approaches.

        Also was the prez of the Inventors Club in Spfld VT helping others to get patents and businesses in VT. There was NO town interest for what we were doing. I addressed the Rotary club. Our meetings were video taped by SAPA, a community TV channel and aired. SAPA should have those tapes still. Also brought in many speakers, one was a guy that invented Ultrasound. another was Loctite Corp, a company in Windsor VT had a business with nano filters that were fine enough to cut up viruses when passing threw the filter, to name a couple. We tried to bring and develop products come to life and assist in the patent process. BUT Spfld is a dead town, not much different today than in the 60’s. They actually discouraged business with their taxation policies.

        The town was controlled by the “Click” on Cherry Hill.

  7. There you have it, there’s no getting there without bankrupting the citizen thru taxation.
    If the leftarded faction of Fascist wishes to continue this folly of carbon control in the cleanest state it will have to sacrifice more citizens moving out along with business who won’t be able to afford doing business under the cost of VT stupidity. How much will all this decrease global temperature I ask?????? or is that not the real agenda here? VT will become a state of welfare with no one to pay for it..kinda like Mexifornia on the left coast.

  8. I wonder if these folk have wondered where all this electricity is going to come from to heat your homes and charge your cars. For instance, the Tesla charger can be set to draw 80a @ 240v. That’s nearly 20,000 watts for one car. Put two cars in that garage. (for the few Vermont folks that have garages) And all of a sudden you’re looking at a need to go from a 200a service panel to a 400a service (Two 200a panels essentially) This not only requires another panel but also upgraded wires to the utility poll.

    So to add salt to the wound Last I knew the VT grid was in pretty bad shape in terms of capacity.

    “Most of Vermont’s electrical utilities are feeling at least some revenue pinch because the SHEI — a series of electrical transmission cables encompassing Highgate, Newport, Lyndon and points in between — has reached its capacity, executives said.”

    Now remember the most popular vehicle in VT, the Half ton Truck. Well Ford has you covered:

    With a 400 mile range and nearly 6 tons of towing capacity can you imagine the power required to charge it?

    VT better start stringing up some new high tension wires or it’s going to be Christmas lights and fires at the next dry spell. Ask California how that worked out.

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