Roper: The TCI looks DOA

By Rob Roper

The Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI), referring to the organization itself rather than the policy, has put off publication of their final proposal for a multi-state, regional carbon tax on gasoline and diesel fuel for well over half a year. Originally, they promised to release it in the spring of 2020, then hinted at summer, and are currently operating under a promise to do so this fall – a window rapidly closing. Presumably, the delays are part of a strategy to hold off until a politically opportune time. It doesn’t appear such a time will ever transpire. Increasingly, TCI looks dead on arrival.

The latest blow comes from Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, who, up until a very short time ago, was TCI’s biggest cheerleader. But now, according to the Boston Herald, “Gov. Charlie Baker said governors are re-evaluating support of a controversial carbon tax designed to limit greenhouse gas emissions….”

Rob Roper is the president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

He further acknowledged that, “‘We’re living at a point in time right now that’s dramatically different than the point in time we were living in when people’s expectations about miles traveled and all the rest were a lot different.’”

The “dramatically different” time, of course, refers to the Covid economic decline. This is no doubt a large factor in Baker’s and other governors’ thinking. People are driving less regardless of a penalizing carbon tax squeezing us to do so, and trends toward working from home and reduced business travel are projected to continue beyond the pandemic. Imposition of a 17 cent per gallon tax on motor fuels is no longer necessary to affect a reduction in transportation emissions.

Moreover, the costs of the program in the cost/benefit equation – both economic and political – are growing more acute. The prospect of a 17 cent tax/surcharge/fee on gas was never a political winner. The Ethan Allen Institute conducted a scientific poll of 600 Vermonters in October and found that 54% oppose Vermont joining TCI if it meant paying that much more at the pump, 42% strongly opposed, compared to 38% who support the idea with less than 20% strongly so.

Add to that general distaste, for example, that as restaurants struggle to remain afloat, increasing the cost of produce shipped by truck would be a cruel kick to an industry that’s already down. Similarly, when the tourism and hospitality industries are trying to ramp back up, saddling their potential customers with higher transportation costs to reach their destinations is counterproductive. The same can be said in regard to workers as they return to their jobs. After long layoffs and/or decreased earnings, are politicians really going to tell folks that, now that you’re employed again, you’ll have to pay this penalty for getting to and from work?

Which gets to the regressive and elitist nature of TCI, which is becoming more and more apparent to large swaths of constituents. In broad terms, the people who are least able to telecommute to their jobs – grocery store clerks, nurses, plumbers, electricians, etc. – are who we have come to know over the last nine months as “essential workers.” Many already see this divide between those who can and can’t socially distance due to the nature of their jobs as one of inherent unfairness. TCI would essentially be a tax on lower wage essential workers, but one that white collar telecommuters could avoid. Good luck selling that proposition in today’s world.

In states with larger minority populations, TCI is even under fire for being racist. From New Jersey, a collection of environmental groups under the banner of Climate Justice Alliance including Maria Lopez Nuñez of Ironbound Community Corporation testified, “TCI to date has been tone deaf at best and racist at worst,” for its lack of outreach to communities of color or consideration of the impact of TCI on those communities. She went on to say, “I think TCI is just taxing poor people so that we can subsidize rich people’s cars.”

Assuming TCI follows through and presents its formal plan this fall, the decision about whether or not Vermont should join will be a topic for the new legislature. Some of TCI’s leading in-state proponents were rejected by the voters in 2020, such as Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe, Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson, and Progressive Caucus leader Robin Chesnut-Tangerman. The question is, will the new leadership team continue to beat this horse, or put it out of its — and our — misery?

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. He lives in Stowe.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Infrogmation

12 thoughts on “Roper: The TCI looks DOA

  1. It’s not about climate change – come on… Devon – Willem you are on target – think logically! Keep a close eye on our head masters and associates…dig deeper!!

  2. someone posted that “inefficient vehicles would rapidly disappear”

    Is it good that people who can only afford older vehicles must give up their transportation,
    which may not be paid for anyway, and required to buy something “more perfect?”

    What happens to the folks who need or chose a pick-up truck,
    or an 8 passenger van for a big family. Do you say “tough luck buddy!!”

    The town plow, paving companies, heavy construction, rubbish trucks,
    ALL those just pass the costs back to citizens.

    Only “Perfect Pretty People” are welcome in the “New Vermont” ,
    – opposite of New Hampshire.

  3. So, the Vermont legislature wants to regulate and tax Vermonters to death to reduce carbon emissions and save our planet. What should Vermonters do about the rest of the world? I think what we see here in Vermont are special interest groups not so much interested in saving our planet as they are about using Vermont as a launch pad for their agenda.

    Visit the link below and see what I’m talking about. Then zoom in on the US to Vermont and see how many coal fired plants we have? Do we seriously believe Vermont, one of the cleanest states in the nation will have a real impact on global carbon reduction? It’s time Vermont politician’s be realistic and not just ideological.

  4. More regarding Vermont’s futile GWSA efforts

    The Mauna Loa Monthly CO2 ppms show CO2 steadily increasing for 60 years.

    The CO2 graph shows increasing CO2 ppm versus years, despite various “fighting-climate-change” RE programs and $trillions of RE capital expenditures.

    The annual up/down CO2 ppm values, having a range of about 7 ppm, are due to world’s biomass growth of winter/summer conditions, i.e., natural variations.

    Mankind’s RE build-out efforts would have to be on a scale 5 to 10 times larger than the annual biomass effect, to have a manmade CO2 ppm reduction, of, say 50% by 2050

    None of the very puny manmade RE efforts appear to have had any effect over the past 60 years.

    You can see the graph in this article.


  5. The blatant dishonesty of people who believe there is global warming is showcased here ! What does it matter if there is a “pandemic” or a similar problem currently happening…to make them rethink their agenda ? If what they believe in is real …why would they not pursue it not matter what is happening ! Blatant political fear -mongering !!!

    • Devon,

      Yes, totally hypocritical they are.


      All else is horse manure.

      RE subsidy-chasing by m ultimate-millionaires, a la Wall Street, is the word

      Vermont is just a flea on an elephant’s a…..
      Vermont cannot influence ANYTHING regarding the climate, global warming, etc.

      Warren Buffett Quote:

      “I will do anything that is basically covered by the law to reduce Berkshire’s tax rate,” Buffet told an audience in Omaha, Nebraska recently. “For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

    • Devon,

      Lousy/Corrupt politicians are a bit like lousy engineers.

      They never admit mistakes, they blame others, then pile on problematic patch after problematic patch, instead of tearing things down to fix the underlying problem.

      Of course there are very few lousy engineers.

      • Thanks Willem, I am an engineer, 26 years self employed created a business with employees have a BSME. Have two patents and still creating. Keep the brain engaged and the body will follow for longevity. The main problem for the self employed is the government, state, feds and IRS. Was told directly by an IRS agent “we are out to eliminate small business”. Constant fight. The SBA is a farce. Many horror stories, but you have to put up with it. Employees are another up and down situation. Worked many holidays and hours, T’Bird day, Xmas and a lot of travel deadlines etc. Didn’t let it all get to me. Many others should experience the same.

        Retired 1990. The 80’s were the best.

  6. Gas Guzzler Fees to Reduce CO2
    Vermont should have an energy efficiency standard for light duty vehicles.
    Here its a way to reduce CO2

    Gas Guzzler Fees to Reduce CO2
    Vermont should have an energy efficiency standard for light duty vehicles.

    Annual fees would be paid at time of annual registration.
    Inefficient vehicles would rapidly disappear.
    CO2 would be rapidly reduced.
    The collected funds could be used for filling potholes.
    The wasteful Comprehensive Transportation Initiative, TCI, would not be needed.

    • Gas guzzler fees? Would do virtually nothing other than hurt Vermonters financially. Better to shut down the tourist industry, then out of state’s wouldn’t drive their gas guzzling SUVs into Vermont.

      • Lester,

        Look at the A-to-Z picture

        Such fees work very well in Europe and Japan.

        Smaller cars, higher mileage, less CO2, less fossil fuel imports to Vermont, money stays in Vermont to pave roads.

        • Lester,

          Oops, made a mistake.

          Should read;”money stays in Vermont for more Socialistic government programs to CEMENT more votes.

          Gee, what was I thinking?

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