Roper: Senators admit clean heat standard is a carbon tax

By Rob Roper

On the morning of April 15, after weeks of discussion and just hours before they voted 4-1 to advance legislation that would saddle Vermonters with a radical, economy transforming “clean heat standard” for home heating fuels, senators on the Natural Resources & Energy Committee asked a remarkable question: “What do you get to do with a [clean heat] credit when you buy them?” They did not know. They could not really explain.

This is pretty shocking considering the whole proposal for a clean heat standard is based on the concept creating an obligation for fossil fuel dealers to buy clean heat credits in order to sell fossil-based heating fuels to their customers. It’s kind of an important detail to clearly understand before making an informed decision about whether or not the bill is a good idea.

state of Vermont

Sen. Mark MacDonald, D-Orange: “So, when John McClaughry says we’ve got a fuel tax coming — a carbon tax — I think John is correct. That’s what we’re doing.”

Senator Mark MacDonald (D-Orange) kicked off a roughly 30-minute discussion trying to get to the bottom of exactly what the committee was voting on with the somewhat bizarre statement, “Before I kill someone to get their clean heat credits, I want to know what the charge is going to be. Embezzlement, scam, securities fraud?”  (20:30-52:00)

Committee Chair Chris Bray (D-Addison) tried — and failed — to explain how the credit system might work, leaving MacDonald even more confused, “Where does the money come from? … I don’t understand it so I can’t explain it. … I don’t understand anything.”

Bray tried again, pointing out that sellers of fossil heating fuels would be obligated to purchase “clean heat credits” in order to sell their products, and that the cost of these credits would likely be passed along to consumers. His defense of a general ignorance about how all this would work in practice highlights a major problem with this bill: “No one knows this for sure, because they [the Public Utilities Commission (PUC)] haven’t worked out the system.”

These senators are about to sign off on and give force of law to a “plan” that doesn’t yet exist, and therefore can’t be understood.

As MacDonald summed up, “They (the PUC) in theory understand what we are not able to explain. We are asking them to design the thing that will work. But we can’t explain what we are asking them to design.”

state of Vermont

State Sen. Chris Bray, D-Addison

One critical point did register with MacDonald, however. “So, when John McClaughry says we’ve got a fuel tax coming — a carbon tax — I think John is correct. That’s what we’re doing. Isn’t that what we’re doing?”

Bray agreed. “That’s right. In essence you’re building into the price of the fuel the cost to help reduce the emissions.”

MacDonald laid out the gist, “By paying this thing to pollute — to burn this fossil fuel which is doing our atmosphere and our future damage, you’re going to pay extra. … And that extra money is going to be used to hire people who are interested in reducing the amount they use.”

Bray again agreed, “That’s a yes.” He also noted, “We don’t know what the cost impacts will be.”

So, let this sink in. Our legislators are voting to make a law that will radically transform not just our economy but our entire way of life, not really knowing what it is they’re voting for. They don’t know how it works, they don’t know what it will do, they don’t know what it will cost, they can’t explain it to their colleagues or their constituents. But four out of five of them voted for it anyway. (So did 96 out of 150 House members.)

Gov. Phil Scott is demanding the Clean Heat Standard bill contain a “check back” provision wherein after the PUC does design the plan and legislators do have enough information to understand how it will work and what it will cost, legislators would then have to affirmatively vote to put the Clean Heat Standard into law. This is just common sense. But common sense is something a majority of our elected leaders completely lack. They rejected the idea of a “check back” and doubled down on their “ignorance is bliss” approach.

This is why Vermont is a hot mess of unaffordability and regulatory quagmires. The people we’ve elected to run the state do not know what they are doing, admit that they do not know what they are doing, do it anyway, and don’t care what it costs or how it disrupts the lives of the people they ostensibly serve.

If as a result of this entirely negligent approach to governance you can’t afford to heat your home future winters, Sen. MacDonald has advice for you: “Get a blanket for [Pete’s] sake!” Or to paraphrase Marie Antoinette, “Go eat cake.”

Rob Roper is on the board of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Images courtesy of TNR, state of Vermont and State of Vermont

11 thoughts on “Roper: Senators admit clean heat standard is a carbon tax

  1. TNR’s banner picture is a classic: Elitist Bray standing in front of his expensive taxpayer purchased wine cellar or was that pic taken at the French Laundry?

  2. Bray and McDonald are just following party orders,

    which are to tax fossil fuels in any way possible (but do not ever call it a carbon tax!),

    to make these highly essential fuels even more expensive,

    to force more of already struggling Vermonters down into the poverty hole,

    so they can be “rescued” by various socialistic government programs,

    which are managed by career Dem/Progs who are friends and/or family of Dem/Prog Legislators,

    who get campaign “contributions” for performing “Constituent Service”, from Efficiency-Vermont-approved installers of heat pumps,

    which the VT-DPS HAS PROVEN reduce ENERGY costs by $200/y,

    but after AMORTIZING the heat pumps over 15 years, the mortgage payment on $4,500 per 20,000 Btu/h heat pump would turn the energy cost savings into a loss of at least $250/y

    Read the URL to get a REAL WORLD education

    • A 20,000 Btu/h heat pump will not heat any home bigger then 500 sq. ft. in winter. That is a little cabin. Not a house, and not in anyway a standard, common VT. home. I have a wood boiler that can put out 90,000 BTU/h and when its 10 below, it barely manages to keep a 1550 sq. ft. house comfortable.

  3. It is generally conceded (and I have no doubt accurately so) that neither Vermont, the planet earth or those paying for this politicoeconomic boondoggle will see any change in climate resulting from it. At the very least – since they’re paying for it – the victims should have a vote on the proposal. This has every appearance of a punitive tax burdened on those who do not subscribe to the dogma of the AGW cultists.

  4. “The people we’ve elected to run the state do not know what they are doing, admit that they do not know what they are doing, do it anyway,…”

    I don’t believe this statement.

    The hardcore Socialists like Ginny Lyons, Becca Balint, Baruch, Krowinski, Bernie Sanders to name just a very few… KNOW what they’re doing.

    Marxism is more a revolutionary theory than an economic one. “They” mean to overthrow the existing society. It’s that simple.

    Critical Race Theory, Black Lives Matter, Climate Change, Federal debt, inflation, crime & violence, open borders, postmodern queer and gender theory normalized in elementary schools, God & religion banished from the public sphere, cohabitation normalized and marriage and the nuclear family shunned as ‘privileged’.

    I could go on but NOW do you see the pattern?

    Read Thomas Sowell’s Marxism or James Lindsey’s Race Marxism or W. Cleon Skousen’s The Naked Communist or Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom or James Burnham’s Suicide of the West or Whittaker Chambers’ Witness.

    It’s in plain sight.

    They want Revolution.

    • The woke minds at Netflix filtering a motley crew of “actors” into programs managed to render Netflix unwatchable/unpalatable to many viewers.

      As a result, Netflix had a major reduction of paid subscribers, and reported dismal earnings, and the stock price dropped FORTY PERCENT.

      Netflix will have to oust the woke minds, and create so real good programs, and lower prices to lure subscribers back to its site, an almost impossible task.


      Why is my email not automatically appearing?
      Why are my comments delayed for reviews?

  5. It’s become ever more apparent that we’ve elected officials who are pursuing enlightened agendas rather than representing some consensus arising from us, their constituents. This is not the representation we thought our votes were securing. It’s an ascendant elite presuming to lead us to a better world…for our own good. Our quest to have participatory governance is forfeit if we default to being RULED this way. We need to be more demanding constituents. Are we telling our elected officials what we want & don’t want? …how frequently? Are they voting accordingly? If not, can we find candidates who will be more attuned to representing vs ruling?

  6. The fuel dealer payments have to be made, just to stay in business, I.e., sell fuel.

    Who collects the money from the dealers?

    Dealers will raise their prices to recover costs from already struggling, over-taxed, over-regulated Vermonters, who are trying to make ends meet when inflation will be 8 to 10 percent PER YEAR, lasting at least several courtesy of Biden multi $trillion deficit spending

    What will be done with the money?

    • More than likely , the money from the fuel dealers spend to buy “credits” will be used to increase bureaucracy and perhaps subsidize the less affluent who are facing the increases in fuel costs. These “checks for the needy” will , of coarse need income data to be collected, collated and certified by further more State workers who will need benefits, pensions and yearly increases in salaries, most of whom will also be either paying higher fuel prices themselves or being subsidized ad infinitum. The leviathan lives.

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