Roper: Vermont Climate Council wants ‘a river of money’

By Rob Roper

The Vermont Climate Council, charged with coming up with a plan to reduce Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions to 26% below 2005 levels by 2025, 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, and 80% below by 2050, is finally putting forward some details about what policies it will take to do this. While they have not yet discussed many specifics of how to pay for these programs, member Richard Cowart summed it up at their July 26 meeting saying “a river of money” needs to be diverted into the cause. A river indeed.

Rob Roper is the president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

The Council’s broad outline of a plan requires either subsidizing at taxpayer expense or mandating at homeowners’ expense the retrofitting of hundreds of thousands of homes, businesses, and municipal buildings for weatherization, electrification, and transitioning away from fossil fuel air and water heating systems. It requires increasing the number of electric vehicles on our roads from 4,000 to 46,000 by 2025 largely via subsidizing the purchases. It calls for building bike paths, moving communities out of flood zones via taxpayer-funded real estate buy-outs, not to mention the cost of building the electricity generation and transmission infrastructure needed to meet all of this newly created demand.

Exactly how unrealistic is this? Let’s look at just electric vehicle component of this plan. The first commercial hybrid electric vehicles came out in the US in 2000. In the 21 years following, Vermont’s EV fleet grew from zero to about 4,000 (7% of the total) — this with the help of considerable federal and state financial incentives and encouragement. Now the Climate Council says we have to have 46,000 EVs on Vermont roads by 2025, one out of every four vehicle purchases over that timeframe.

According to driveelectricvt.com, Vermont state subsidy amounts for fully electric vehicles currently range from $2,500 to $4,000 and from $1,500 to $3,000 for hybrids depending upon one’s income. In between December 2019 and October 2020, the state handed out $1,100,000 worth of such subsides. A similar amount, perhaps a bit more, has been spent between October 2020 and today. So, we have already been spending between a million and a million and a half of taxpayers’ dollars on EV subsidies per year. Assuming each future purchased EV comes with an average $3,000 state taxpayer subsidy, that would mean we’d have to up the spending on EV subsides to $42 million per year over three years. But, if higher subsidies are necessary to motivate so many people into a car they otherwise would not buy, who knows how high that number has to go to be effective?

As for weatherization, the Climate Council says we have to ramp up activity by a factor of 5.5 to meet the 2030 goals, from 27,000 currently weatherized homes to 148,000. Efficiency Vermont, the primary entity tasked with weatherizing homes, already has a current annual budget of just under $54 million. About 5.5 times that would be nearly $300 million per year.

The same chart shared by the Council indicates that 56,000 Vermont households will have to replace their air heating and cooling systems with heat pumps by 2025, and 186,000 will have to by 2030. Some 40,000 will have to replace their water heating systems by 2025, and over 190,000 by 2030. How much will this cost, and who is going to pay for it? Moreover, how is the state going to force ostensibly free, private citizens into making these “choices.” Outright bans? Prohibitive fees? Higher taxes?

Richard Cowart’s breezy observation, “There’s a river of money out there, and we need to redirect it, where it goes,” is easier said than done. The Climate Council are not the only ones trying to redirect rivers of money. The state’s public pensions are in crisis, currently consuming over 12% of all General Fund spending and growing, and the unions want a river of money to fix this. Let’s Grow Kids is pushing for a massive expansion of birth to five childcare, K-12 advocates are eager to reform pupil weighting formulae which will come with a hefty price tag, our state college system is floundering financially.

While the Climate Council and the Agency of Natural Resources have broad regulatory authority under the GWSA, they do not have the power to raise taxes. The Legislature will have to do this part, and 2022 is an election year. Will the Legislature be on board with “redirecting” rivers of money away from these projects?

More importantly, I’m willing to bet a large majority of voting taxpayers’ priority amongst this smorgasbord of spending choices is to keep their money for themselves with no interest in seeing it “redirected” away from their pay checks, savings accounts, wallets, and household budgets, especially for the purposes of putting their unemployed neighbor in a Prius.

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

Image courtesy of Vermont Agency of Natural Resources
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15 thoughts on “Roper: Vermont Climate Council wants ‘a river of money’

  1. BOB,

    It looks like some Dem/Prog US HOUSE members are objecting to Bernies Communist/Socialist dreams at a cost of $3.5 to $5.0 TRILLION, FOR STARTERS
    https://www.zerohedge.com/political/9-democrats-threaten-mutiny-over-35t-budget-resolution

    A group of nine moderate House Democrats are threatening to withhold their votes from their party’s $3.5 trillion budget resolution later this month, if Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) doesn’t push the recently passed $1.2 TRILLION infrastructure plan through to President Biden’s desk.

    “We will not consider voting for a budget resolution until the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passes the House and is signed into law,” wrote the group led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) in a Thursday letter obtained by Politico.

    The group, which has been issuing veiled warnings for weeks, could upend the Democrats’ massive $3.5 trillion social spending package for which Pelosi can only afford to lose three votes in the House, which is slated for a vote when the House returns on August 23.

    Once passed by the House, Senate Democrats can move forward with the $3.5 trillion package using the filibuster-proof reconciliation process. And that’s assuming they can convince moderate Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to play ball.

    Meanwhile, progressive/fanatic/extremist US House Democrats are flatly rejecting the idea of putting the infrastructure bill up for a vote before the $3.5 TRILLION package, warning Pelosi that they have the votes to tank the Senate-passed bill.

    That said, Pelosi is holding her ground on her promise of a two-track plan to push both packages in tandem.

    If I were Pelosi, I would head back to California and eat some $10/pint ice cream from her $20,000 SUB SUB ZERO refrigerator made in Germany.

  2. BOB,

    With lots of variable, intermittent wind and solar, a lot of battery capacity would be required to mitigate midday solar output surges, in case of sunshine in Vermont, and wind/solar lulls of up to 5 to 7 days, which occur, AT RANDOM, in Vermont and NE, throughout the year

    The grid-scale battery systems, spread throughout the state, would be site-specific, custom-designed, utility-grade systems which are about 5 times more expensive per kWh, delivered as AC to the grid, than mass-produced battery packs for TESLA EVs.

    At present, such systems are about 500/kWh, delivered as AC to the grid.
    Vermont would need about 25 million kWh of storage at a cost of $12.5 billion

    Remember, any electricity passing from a high voltage line, through the battery, to the high voltage line, has an A-to-Z loss of at least 20%.

    Remember, the battery must not be discharged below 20%, and not be charged above 80%, if a 15-y life is to be achieved.

    Remember, batteries age at least 1 to 1.5%/y

    That means 25 million kWh of storage likely would be too low
    https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/high-costs-of-wind-solar-and-battery-systems

    That means you’ll need to spend that 12.5 billion every 15 years

    You can bet, once you’ve adopted such a stupid energy policy, your economy (GDP) will start shrinking as business and people flee to places where the power stays on and costs a fraction of Vermont’s.

    You can bet the cost of such “batteries” will escalate over time as the “rare Earth metals” needed for their manufacture become increasingly scarce, if the world could even build enough of them, after also:

    1) Banning internal combustion engines, and
    2) Having heat pumps everywhere

    Oh, and wait! There’s more.

    Those wind mills and solar panels will also be up for replacement about every 20 years for wind, and every 25 years for solar.

    A $trillion here, a $trillion there, a bankrupt state, with a wasteland of dead birds, bats and migrating insects, and no economically viable future.

    How long will it take for government buildings to be surrounded by crowds with burning torches?

    • Willem:

      The Climate Council has 23 members…….How many of those Council members do you suppose have the least bit of the qualifications needed to deal with the engineering, technical, financial and other complex issues you continually raise?

      If the Council doesn’t have the qualifications, then who is advising them?…… Do you think it could be the same special interest people from the renewable energy sector and lobbyists plus the climate activists that got the Global Warming Solution Act passed in the first place?

      So, on what basis are judgements being made by a Climate Council composed of individuals with little to no relevant expertise that lead to the conclusion that “rivers of money” are needed to fund climate recommendations?

      Does this seem like a rational approach to dealing with extremely complex costly problems?

      • Peter, it appears rational to THEM
        EAN, VEIC, etc., are “advising” the Committee of non experts.

        That is how they got such great CO2 reduction results from 1990 to 2015.

        One short-sighted government subsidy program after another.

        No celebration is warranted, because it has a resulted in near-stagnant real growth and a near-stagnant population.

        The latest fad is electric transit buses at a $million-plus each, including infrastructures. A standard diesel transit bus costs less than half, requires minimal infrastructures.

        Two Proterra buses have been on the road in Burlington, for more than a year, but a not a peep how they are doing.

        No operating and maintenance and downtime data, and costs have been released

        Why are Scott’s people not demanding the publishing of that data?
        Are they sitting on bad news?

        Vermont needs major glasnost and perestroika; decades overdue.

        • Scott and others mentioned there will be 40 electric transit buses for starters.

          It seems to me, some business common sense needs to be applied, before investing tens of $millions.

          There must be less expensive ways to reduce CO2, such as requiring all NEW houses are net-zero-energy, or energy-surplus houses. That would save energy, and reduce CO2, and save money for at least 100 years

  3. The Vermont Climate Council was created by the Vermont legislature. The people you elect biannually to “represent” you. Apparently, a majority of these legislators think that taxes and fees will prevent climate change due to energy usage in Vermont- hence the creation of the VCC with it’s ability to levy fees and dictate goals- with no requirement that either fees nor goals be rooted in reality. The legislature doesn’t want to get blamed for raising taxes that are unpopular, they like their positions of power and want to be re-elected. The VCC is there to take the heat and explain why we are wrong and selfish to protest their edicts. As the GWSA was created and enacted in Montpelier, plenty of folks warned us what the outcome would be, yet here we are- with few listening. This started at the ballot box, decades ago.
    When you build a monster, you must feed a monster….rivers of money.

  4. Well said Rob. It would seem the left spends all of its time redirecting, reimagining and rearranging things with absolutely no understanding of the consequences of their actions.

  5. BOB,

    A river of money to achieve next to NOTHING regarding GLOBAL WARMING?

    The only thing it will achieve is more feel-good ECO-egoism of Dem/Prog RE folks, yearning for lucrative RE careers, and more and more CENTRALIZED command/control of the Vermont economy.

    They will want more and more money, because their goals are EPHEMERAL, ELUSIVE FATA MORGANAs, akin to tilting at windmills, while wishing water would flow uphill.

    The turnkey capital cost to implement the Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan, CEP, would be in excess of $1.0 billion/y for at least 33 years (2017 – 2050), according to a 2015 Energy Action Network, EAN, annual report. If updated to 2021, the numbers would be about $1.25 billion/y for 29 years (2021 – 2050). See URLs.

    http://eanvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/EAN-2015-Annual-Report-Low-Res-Final.pdf
    https://outside.vermont.gov/sov/webservices/Shared%20Documents/2016CEP_Final.pdf
    https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/high-costs-of-wind-solar-and-battery-systems

    Spending on government energy programs, including Efficiency Vermont, has averaged about $210 million/y from 2000 to 2015, a total of at least $2.5 billion, but Vermont CO2 emissions increased from 9.64 million metric ton in 2000, to 9.54 MMt in 2015, a decrease of 1.0%.
    See page 36 of URL
    https://dec.vermont.gov/sites/dec/files/aqc/climate-change/documents/_Vermont_Greenhouse_Gas_Emissions_Inventory_Update_1990-2017_Final.pdf

    EVs

    EAN, with help of VT-DPS, claimed, without providing any calculations, a CO2 reduction more than two times as great, i.e., 4.5 versus 2.180 Mt/y per EV; the reduction would be even less, if the A-to-Z CO2 and lifetime conditions had not been ignored

    This excessive 4.5 Mt/y claim was made to deceive people, including legislators, and to hype the adoption of overly expensive, not-very-useful EVs.
    See table 1 and 2 in URL
    https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/some-ne-state-governments-play-deceptive-games-with-co2-emissions

    HEAT PUMPS

    EAN, with help of VT-DPS, claimed, without providing any calculations, 90,000 HPs would reduce CO2 by 0.370 million Mt/y, or 4.111 Mt/y per HP
    See page 4 of URL
    https://www.eanvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/EAN-report-2020-final.pdf

    Heat pumps displaced only 35% of my space heating propane in my well-insulated/well-sealed house.
    This is better than the AVERAGE displacement of 27.6% by HPs in AVERAGE Vermont houses, per VT-DPS study. See URL
    https://publicservice.vermont.gov/sites/dps/files/documents/2017%20Evaluation%20of%20Cold%20Climate%20Heat%20Pumps%20in%20Vermont.pdf

    The CO2 reduction of my displaced propane was 300 gal x 12.7 lb CO2/gal = 1.728 Mt/y, and the CO2 of the additional electricity was 2332 x 317 g/kWh = 0.739 Mt/y, for a reduction of 0.989 Mt/y, based on the ISO-NE value of 317 g/kWh, using fuel consumption of all power plants connected to the NE grid.

    Heat Pumps are Money Losers in my Vermont House (as they are in almost all people’s houses)

    I installed three Mitsubishi, 24,000 Btu/h HPs, Model MXZ-2C24NAHZ2, each with 2 heads; 2 in the living room, 1 in the kitchen, and 1 in each of 3 bedrooms. The HPs have DC variable-speed, motor-driven compressors and fans, which improves the efficiency of low-temperature operation. The HPs last about 15 years. Turnkey capital cost was $24,000

    I do not operate my HPs at 10F or below, because HPs would become increasingly less efficient with decreasing temperatures.
    The HP operating cost per hour would become greater than of my highly efficient propane furnace. See URL
    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/vermont-co2-reduction-of-ashps-is-based-on-misrepresentations

    The cost of displaced propane was 300 x $2.399/gal = $720/y
    The cost of additional electricity for HPs was 2332 x 0.20 = $466/y
    My energy cost savings due to the HPs were $253/y, on an investment of $24,000!!
    If all my investments had been this great, I would be in a poorhouse, and on welfare.

    Cost of CO2 Reduction was (2,059, amortizing – 253, energy cost saving + 200, parts and maintenance)/0.998 Mt/y, CO2 reduction, table 6 = $2028/Mt, which is similar to money-losing, very expensive, electric transit and school buses. See URL
    https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/electric-bus-systems-likely-not-cost-effective-in-vermont-at

    Weatherizing Vermont’s energy-hog houses at $10,000 each would NOT render these house suitable for HPs, BY A LONG SHOT, as was proven in MY housed and by the VT-DPS study

    Only high-efficiency houses that are HIGHLY SEALED AND HIGHLY INSULATED are suitable for HPs.

    All of the above has been well known to VT-DPS and EAN, because I have kept them, and thousands of others, informed over the years.

    • Excerpt from

      ELECTRIC TRANSIT AND SCHOOL BUS SYSTEMS NOT COST-EFFECTIVE IN NEW ENGLAND AND CANADA
      https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/electric-bus-systems-likely-not-cost-effective-in-vermont-at

      ELECTRIC TRANSIT BUSES

      Two Proterra Electric Buses in Burlington, Vermont

      The turnkey capital cost of 2 buses was over $2 million, including infrastructure.
      They were put in service March, 2020.
      The buses are parked, charged, and maintained in a Town garage. See URL

      Proterra estimated the range at {324 kWh DC x 0.73, derating factor x (1+ 0.25, regen)}/2.1 kWh DC/mile = 140 miles for three seasons, and 100 miles for winter months.

      – These ranges are for new batteries.
      – The 0.73 factor may be high; this article uses 0.60. See table 1A
      – The 2.1 kWh DC/mile may be insufficient. That value would be suitable for Seattle, Washington (see below), which is warmer than Burlington, Vermont.

      The Burlington buses have been in operation on various routes for more than a year, but no electricity consumption data, and other maintenance and operating costs, have been made public.

      This article had to rely on several National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL, reports of similar Proterra buses in service elsewhere!!
      https://vermontbiz.com/news/2020/january/28/green-mountain-transit-bed-unveil-first-two-electric-buses

      Comments on table 1A

      Charging/Discharging Limits:
      – Batteries should not be discharged to less than 10%, and should not be charged above 90%, as that would damage, shorten life, decrease efficiency, etc., of the battery
      – Frequent high-speed charging would damage, shorten life, decrease efficiency, etc., of the battery
      – Batteries should have a 15% reserve for operating flexibility regarding roads, traffic, weather, route length, etc.
      – This means the working range for a new battery would be (100 – 10 – 15 – 15) % x 324, rated capacity = 194.4 kWh DC

      Battery Aging:
      As batteries age, they have greater resistance to charging, hold less charge, and have greater resistance to discharging.
      An aging battery having increased charging and discharging resistance, means each mile of travel would require more electricity from the wall outlet, kWh AC/mile
      A battery holding less charge means its working range would become less, as the battery ages

      Battery aging of EVs and electric school buses is at least 1%/y, because they are driven about 12,000 miles/y
      Battery aging of electric transit buses is at least 1.5 %/y, because they are driven about 30,000 miles/y. Their range reduction would be at least 10%, at the 7-y mid-life, and at least 19%, at the 14-y near-end-life.

      This URl has valuable information regarding the factors affecting battery performance and battery life
      https://www.geotab.com/blog/ev-battery-health/

      NOTE: For long life, say 15 years, Li-ion batteries should not be discharged to less than 20%, and not be charged in excess of 80%, (25% to 75% is even better for long life and performance), per Battery University, which would limit VtG “benefits” of electric school buses and regular EVs. That range also happens to have the highest efficiency. See URLs

      https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180801093718.htm
      https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/05/tesla-jaguar-and-nissan-evs-lose-power-in-freezing-temps-.html

  6. The Vermont Climate Council has never been about reducing Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions. It’s always been about diverting as much of the collective federal and state funding for it, ( in the final analysis all funding comes from working tax payers) to the pockets of the ‘Climate Council Chosen’ and their retinue of delusional followers. This is a scam of monumental proportions! We’re being robbed. Follow the money, people!

  7. “Rivers of Money” WTH! Water has to come from somewhere and so does money.

    Nature provides the river, But only Sweat, Production, and Risk taking provide Cash. Failure to reward the sweat,
    or stealing cash from the every families purse, will never be “enough” to satisfy these thousands of advocates,
    or to solve …. “The Problem?”!

    Let these advocates to lay down another 40% of their income, and spend much of their time
    in back breaking labor – to show us how easy things can be to make everything perfect.

    • Bless your heart – that’s the old-fashioned way of creating money. Nowadays, they simply create trillions with paper, ink and printing presses.

  8. Re: “I’m willing to bet a large majority of voting taxpayers’ priority amongst this smorgasbord of spending choices is to keep their money for themselves …”

    This is not only a safe bet, by definition it is a truism. Everyone keeps money for themselves. Even when they choose to give it away, they do so to suit themselves – to think well of themselves. Anyone who says otherwise is either an infant or an imbecile.

  9. Even if Richard Cowart with his distinguished resume and breezy statements gets a river of money, it will make no difference in the fight against climate change. Vermont is too small and all of the State’s virtue signaling makes no difference……It doesn’t move the climate change solution meter at all.

    Even, President Biden’s Climate Czar John Kerry has said the United States could go to zero emissions and we would not impact climate change at all……Kerry has further stated that if both the US and China went to zero emissions, the climate crisis would still not be solved. And China with it 1.4 billion people, has no interest in putting the breaks on carbon emissions. China continues to build coal fired power plants domestically and around the world and has set a date of 2060 to be carbon neutral……..A date that is far too late according to John Kerry and many others.

    Its even worse than just China not stepping up, there is also India (700 million people) and other countries in no rush to charge ahead.

    See: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/u-s-commits-to-greater-co2-reductions-china-and-india-do-not/

    It would be good, it would be honest, if Mr. Cowart and his associates on the Climate Council would simply admit that the fight against climate change cannot be won based on where the world’s biggest polluters stand. Tell Vermonters that every thing to be done to fight climate change makes no difference. Do this before committing Vermont to spending rivers of money and societal and economic wrenching changes that make no difference.

    • PETER,

      Sources of CO2

      China 28%, 10.6 billion metric ton
      US 15%; 5.41 bMt
      India 7%; 2.65 bMt
      Russia 5%; 1.71 bMt
      Japan 3%; 1.16 bMt
      Germany 2%;
      Iran 2%

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