By Rob Roper
Vermont’s supermajority just put Vermont on the path to significantly higher home heating fuel prices in the future with the passage of S.5, the Clean Heat Standard bill, over the veto of Governor Phil Scott. But don’t expect the controversy to end there. Home heating is only one area of greenhouse gas reduction required under the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA). Next up is the transportation sector — and higher taxes on gasoline and diesel fuels plus higher registration fees on vehicles that use those fuels.
The Cross Sector Mitigation subcommittee of the Vermont Climate Council took this topic up at their May 18, 2023, meeting. Vermont signed onto the California Clean Cars II initiative earlier this year, phasing out and eventually banning the sale of new internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. This works by mandating percentages of how many electric vehicles (EVs) must be delivered by manufacturers to Vermont regardless of consumer demand.
The Climate Action Plan (CAP) for meeting the GWSA goals will require putting 126,000 EVs into Vermonters’ driveways by 2030. There are about 7,000 on our roads today. While EVs are growing in popularity, they are not so popular (or in many cases practical with current technology) as to grow in market share that much over that time period without serious government intervention in the form of “carrots and sticks.”
The “carrots” are, of course, major subsides — bribes — given to EV purchasers. These will be paid for by using the “sticks” to beat the hell out of drivers of traditional ICE vehicles like so many cash pinatas.
A presentation by the Agency of Transportation to the Cross Sector Mitigation Committee listed the strategies for achieving these goals as either a “cap and invest” program, a ‘cap-and-trade” program, or a “clean transportation standard,” all of which are just variations on a theme – a hefty carbon tax on motor fuels.
Committee member, Jared Duval, pointed out during this presentation that the assumptions of EV uptake are that the public will actually purchase and put into use all of the EVs delivered to Vermont under Clean Cars II, which even he admits seems like a rosy proposition – at lease without “policies and programs to make sure that all of those vehicles can be purchased and placed in service.”
Ben Eskin of the Agency of Transportation assured Duval that the plan is to ensure that all of the vehicles delivered are bought. “As we do our strategy development it’s almost like what are all the prerequisites that we need to do to make deliverance,” he said. “So, there’s going to be an assumption as we do the modeling that we will utilize whatever infrastructure build-up and incentives are needed to make that up-take a reality.”
What he is assuming is that Vermonters are going to pay for, according to his presentation, “Expanded [EV] incentives, EV charging infrastructure/incentives, Other low-carbon fuel incentives,” and “Fleet transition support, [and something called] Make-ready funding.”
This is all going to cost hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars.
That revenue will be raised by taxing (or some other Rube Goldberg carbon tax scheme) gasoline and diesel motor fuels, and “feebates,” a policy of charging drivers of ICE vehicles more to register their cars and using the money to pay-off those who drive EVs.
While the exact amounts necessary to fund all these programs hasn’t been thoroughly calculated, when VPIRG first proposed their carbon tax to fund similar programs back in 2014, the gas and diesel tax implications were right around an additional $1.00 per gallon. Expect something similar if not more so given the scope of what our elected officials have bought into.
Something to think about — and budget for — if you’re determined to stick around to see how the supermajority’s plans for your life and livelihood shake out.
Rob Roper is a freelance writer who has been involved with Vermont politics and policy for over 20 years. This article reprinted with permission from Behind the Lines: Rob Roper on Vermont Politics, robertroper.substack.com