By Rob Roper
VPR covered a two-hour meeting hosted by Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, in which the public policy director for the group, Dan Barlow, proclaimed, “VBSR is especially interested right now in how we can price carbon in a way that will grow our economy.”
So, if you see a “VBSR member” sticker on the window of a local business, make sure to ask the proprietor why he or she supports a tax that will raise gasoline, home heating fuel, etc., on hard-working Vermonters by roughly a dollar a gallon.
First, there is nothing “responsible” about supporting a carbon tax. There’s nothing economically advantageous to swapping a cheaper, more reliable source of energy that can exist on its own merits for ones that are more expensive, less reliable, and would not exist were it not for government mandates and subsidies. Doing so is not responsible — it’s idiotic.
Barlow cites the fact that Vermont has a growing “clean energy sector” such as solar and efficiency. Well, if you pour tax money into any sector you’re going to see jobs. If we took all the subsidies and mandates away from “clean energy” and applied them to paying people to do jumping jacks in the middle of corn fields, we’d have just as many jumping jackers as we do clean energy jobs. What’s harder to see are the jobs lost in the sectors of the economy from which the subsidy monies are confiscated.
Vermont does not need more jobs that require taxpayer dollars to stay afloat. We need more jobs that can support themselves and generate tax revenue. That is, jobs that provide products and services that have an intrinsic value to their customers and can exist organically, without government forcing them to purchase (and/or not purchase) something. If wind and solar can survive and thrive under those conditions, great! We wish them every success.
The logic of carbon tax Supporters gets even more convoluted.
Johanna Miller, the energy program director at Vermont Natural Resources Council, which also co-sponsored the event, says, “We can put more money in Vermonters’ pockets by starting to gradually get off of fossil fuels, and that simultaneously does take us significant steps forward in terms of addressing climate change.”
You cannot simultaneously tax people and put more money in their pockets. The way the carbon tax proposal would work is the state would collect 100 percent of the tax (roughly half a billion dollars when fully implemented) and then “return” 90 percent — less the bureaucratic costs of collecting the tax — in the form of tax cuts, rebates and various welfare programs. What Miller, Barlow and their organizations are trying to sell Vermonters is the notion that by taking $10 from you and giving you back $9, they are somehow putting “money in Vermonters’ pockets.” It’s insulting.
You can tax people and put more money into the pockets of some people. Not for nothing, David Blittersdorf of All Earth Renewables, a past and likely future recipient of renewable energy subsidies, is on the board of directors of VBSR. (So, not shocking that they’re making this a priority.)
And, as for the statement that passing a carbon tax would “take us significant steps forward in terms of addressing climate change,” this is complete nonsense. There is no evidence that Vermont passing a carbon tax will in any way — either significant or microscopically useless — have any impact on global climate trends. At all. Ever. To imply that it will is a flat out lie.
This whole thing would be comical if not for the fact that VBSR and VNRC are two large, well funded organizations with significant membership and political pull in the Statehouse. 2018 is going to be a busy year.