By Rob Roper
As the Vermont Climate Council readies its plans to dramatically reduce Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions, they embarked on a series of public engagement events to field questions from curious citizens. Here are some we all might consider asking.
Transportation: From the council’s discussions, it appears you are going to recommend putting over 40,000 electric vehicles on Vermont’s roads by 2025 (1 out of every 4 new vehicle purchases). There are only about 4,000 EVs on our roads today. Logistically, how do you intend to do this over a three-year period? How much will it cost? Where will the money come from? Does the infrastructure exist (electricity generation and delivery) to support this many EVs even if you are able to coerce 42,000 people into buying them? If not, how do you intend to put that infrastructure into place in just three years? How much will that cost? Where will that money come from?
How much revenue would the Transportation Fund for road/infrastructure maintenance lose (it is funded through gasoline and diesel taxes) if this proposal is successful, and how would that revenue be made up? The Council has discussed “fee-bates” for higher MPG vehicles? What would that look like and how would it work?
Housing: From the council’s discussions, it appears you are going to recommend weatherizing 150,000 homes at a cost of $10,000 per home. That amounts to $1.5 billion (an amount more than twice the annual revenue derived from the state personal income tax). Where will this $1.5 billion come from? If you manage to find the money, given the labor shortage crisis and supply chain issues we are currently experiencing, is it even possible to find enough skilled workers and materials in Vermont to do this?
It appears you are going to recommend mandates for “net zero” building construction by 2030, eliminating the use of fossil fuels for cooking and water heating by 2035 and for space heating by 2040. Can you explain what this will mean for the average homeowner, landlord, renter, and business? How is this going to be achieved and who will be expected to pay for it? Should we all be saving up for government mandated kitchen re-models?
One suggestion raised in council debate was a mandate for transitioning at “time of sale,” meaning a property would not be legally saleable unless all these expensive mandates were completed. What impact will that have on property values? How many Vermonters, especially low-income folks who can’t afford multi-thousand-dollar renovations, would you expect to be stuck with un-salable properties as a result of this policy?
We are experiencing an affordable housing crisis in Vermont. How will the council’s overall recommendations impact the cost of housing, especially low-income housing, and rent in this state, as well as availability via new construction?
Economy: How many Vermonters in the fossil fuel and related businesses (gas stations, mini-marts, heating fuel delivery, etc.) will lose their jobs as a result of the council’s recommendations? How will the recommendations of the council impact Vermont’s largest private employers, such as Global Foundries, and how would the recommendations affect the chances of other large-scale, private sector employers with good paying jobs moving into Vermont?
Vermont’s organic dairy farms recently lost one of their most lucrative markets (Danone/Horizon Organic). If organic Vermont dairy farms are having trouble finding markets, and the council’s recommendations are to regulate conventional dairy farms out of viability, what are the overall implications for the future of the dairy industry in our state?
At the Aug. 8 meeting of the Just Transitions subcommittee, a member described the need to “shift the burden [of climate change] to the privileged.” Can you define who “the privileged” are, and what this statement means?
Actual Impact. At the first public hearing, citizens reportedly said they hoped the council’s proposals would maintain Vermont’s four distinct seasons, the optimal conditions for maple sugaring, and conditions for snow sports in the winter. (Source: VT Digger, 9/22/21). So, if fully implemented, what impact would the council’s plans actually have on future climate trends such as these? During council debate, one member stated, “We can go negative emissions tomorrow, and for everybody in Vermont we’re still going to be dealing with the same issues [regarding climate change],” meaning the actual impact of these proposals on the changing climate is nil. How can you justify spending billions of scarce taxpayer dollars on programs that don’t actually solve the problems they are expected to solve?
And, lastly, if the goal of the council is the total electrification of Vermont’s transportation sector, housing sector (heat, water, etc.), what happens when the increasingly unpredictable and more violent weather patterns you are forecasting for the future knock out power for extended periods of time? We can’t warm ourselves, feed ourselves, or move ourselves to where we could otherwise do these things? Is this colossally foolish or are we missing something?
Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. He lives in Stowe.