McClaughry: Stamping out carbon dioxide emissions

By John McClaughry

Last September the Legislature underwrote a $120,000 contract to a Washington, D.C., firm named Resources for the Future, which specializes in analyzing the economic impact of various policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions caused by consumption of fossil fuels. The 114-page study, “An Analysis of Decarbonization Methods in Vermont,” has now been delivered.

John McClaughry

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Before summarizing its findings, let’s recall why certain organizations are so intent on driving Vermonters away from using gasoline, diesel fuel, natural gas, heating oil and propane. They believe Planet Earth is approaching a climate catastrophe caused by humans burning these energy-rich fuels. By far the most dominant greenhouse gas is water vapor, but that can’t be controlled by driving up the price of water. So the climate alarmists — for want of a better description — are determined to defeat the menace of climate change by making humans stop burning fossil fuels.

A flat-out prohibition of these sources of energy has no prospect of happening any time soon, especially when most climate alarmists are also dead set against nuclear electricity as the carbon-free solution that will maintain our energy-intensive 21st century civilization. They have defined their target as “GHG emissions.” Their means of reducing those emissions is to have the government drive the price of carbon-based fuels steadily higher, until most people can’t afford them anymore and will switch to something else (or move away).

Their ideal for Vermont, with one-fifth of 1 percent of the U.S. population, is to become the perfect little climate-conscious state. Thanks to more building insulation, clustered dwellings, public transit, bicycles, heat pumps, biomass heat, efficiency improvements, existing hydro plants, and much more wind and solar PV electricity, Vermont’s population will consume far less energy, and eventually zero fossil fuel energy.

The metric for climate righteousness has become the amount of carbon dioxide emissions produced by fossil fuel combustion. In 1990, Vermonters released 8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e). At a 2005 conference of the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers, intensely midwifed by climate activists, former Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas caught a serious case of emissions reduction fever.

The result was his Executive Order 07-05 of 2005, declaring Vermont’s goals to be to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 25 percent below the 1990 emissions level by 2012, 50 percent below by 2028, and 75 percent below (“if practicable”) by 2050. These goals were enshrined in Act 168 of 2006. The leading advocacy group, the Center for Climate Strategies, lauded Vermont for having “the nation’s most aggressive GHG reduction goals.”

By 2015, Vermont was not emitting less than the 1990 level, but 16 percent above and climbing. This was embarrassing.

What followed were gubernatorial amendments to Act 168, none of which were ever voted on by elected legislators. Former Gov. Peter Shumlin, an ardent climate warrior, declared that, regardless of state law, the new goals would be 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 percent below by 2050.

In June 2017, Gov. Phil Scott announced Vermont was joining the U.S. Climate Alliance, whose governor-members promise to reduce emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Clearly, all the renewable energy subsidies weren’t getting the job done, although they certainly produced affluence for the renewable industrial complex.

After the heavily Democratic Legislature declined to consider the ESSEX carbon tax plan, the increasingly frustrated climate change warriors asked for and got a $120,000 decarbonization study.

Representative conclusions from the study include a finding that “emissions in Vermont have been increasing since 2011, and the state is currently well above a pathway that would meet any of its GHG emissions targets. … Vermont is unlikely to meet its emissions targets with a carbon-pricing-only strategy unless the carbon price is substantially higher than the prices modeled in this study ($19 to $77 per metric ton of CO2 equivalent in 2025).”

It continues: “A carbon pricing policy could generate $74.7–$433.8 million in annual revenue in 2025, depending on the carbon price amount and number of sectors covered. … Carbon revenue is an appealing feature of carbon pricing and can allow the state to address the negative consequences of carbon pricing, especially for low-income and rural households.”

Overall, the study found there is a combination of carbon pricing [which it carefully avoids characterizing as a tax] and non-price policies that can lead to positive outcomes, if environmental benefits from reducing carbon combustion are added in.

The study candidly observes that “the success of Vermont’s decarbonization strategy will depend on the extent to which it drives action in other states or other countries. … If Vermont’s policy leadership were to inspire increased leadership and policy innovation in other states or nations — it would indeed amount to a significant impact.”

There is much more in this capably produced study. The ultimate question legislators need to wrestle with now is how much expense, disruption and grief are Vermonters willing to endure to produce no detectable effect on global climate, but only this symbolic triumph.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Greg Goebel and John McClaughry

10 thoughts on “McClaughry: Stamping out carbon dioxide emissions

  1. Vermont CO2eq Emissions: Vermont’s CO2eq has been INCREASING as shown in the table; not shown are CO2eq emissions from wood burning, and CO2 sequestration by Vermont’s forests.

    Vermont GHG Emissions 1990 2000 2005 2013 2014 2015
    Total CO2eq, million metric ton 8.588 9.624 10.214 9.095 9.545 9.990

    This is abundant proof Vermont’s government has been implementing expensive, heavily subsidized, ineffective energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, which, when taken together, have been ineffective CO2eq reduction programs.

    With such a dismal track record, the state should get out of the energy business, instead of agitating for unilateral carbon taxes to waste even more money and make things even worse. See URLs.

    • Vermont is spending about $150 million per year on RE

      It would take CARBON taxes, and other taxes totaling about $1 BILLION per year for at least THIRTY-THREE years to implement the Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan, according to ENERGY ACTION NETWORK.

      Almost all Vermont houses and other buildings would have to have major top to bottom rehab to make them highly insulated and highly sealed, so they would be suitable for heating with heat pumps, without needing supplementary heat from a back up system.

      Right now, only about one percent of all Vermont buildings are highly insulated and highly sealed.

      All this has been known by legislators for decades.

      But true to form, they decided to reduce the CO2 of electricity generation, by closing down near zero CO2 Vermont Yankee which was producing 4.6 billion kWh per year, and by putting in a lot of highly subsidized, out of state owned, solar panels, which have the net effect of sending money out of state and of increasing Vermont’s household electric rates.

      The stupidities are endless

      The state should do all of Vermonters a big favor and get out of the energy business, and finally close down the boondoggle called Efficiency Vermont.

      Vermonters might even get a tax cut to help the private sector grow again.

  2. It is worse than a racket, it’s a kind of warfare against us. Science has been turned into a religion.
    It’s fake though, but who sees past the regalia scientific priest hood (no offense to real religions intended).
    But science is supposed to be about evidence, reproducible results, theories that match reality.
    Why is this happening? It’s a globalist power trip, aided and abetted by “useful idiots”, many of them either born yesterday, or addled from too much abuse of their brains by drugs and propaganda, a/k/a news and entertainment.
    The real bottom line is it is about global government, not a democracy but a dictatorship.
    It is tyranny and must be stopped, or we are doomed. If humanity survives, it will be as slaves, and masters.
    The science is fake. We need more CO2. Solar farms take out oxygen production and CO2 removal.
    This is a kind of terrorism.
    When the overdue ice age hits, who will survive? Millionaires and billionaires? Is that their plan?

  3. As I have said before, this whole program by the left has one goal, and that is control of our lives. They cannot control the oil companies and their businesses, so they are on the path to fix it so they will have no business potential in Vermont; they are working three shifts a day to come up with a program that will hoodwink Vermonters into buying this nonsense, and then the costs will be so high to live here they will end up with our money, if any of us are stupid enough to stay here. The skids were greased for this debate the day that Phil Hoff became governor. Incrementally since then (56 years) we are at today’s point in the leftward’s road of ultimate control. The basic needs of survival are food, clothing, and shelter. Within the confines of shelter, is freezing to death in a dark room really a viable option? Why have we not looked closer at our ballots at election time during the last 25 of these 56 years? If this does not start happening now, there is no hope. It is control, folks pure and simple with carbon as the conduit.

  4. I can’t imagine Vermonters riding bicycles during the winter months. All this is alarmist trickery.

    • NO! Have the Legislators ride bikes, adhere to their “feel good” legislation. Set examples They should do what they force on the populace, feel the pain first, then pass legislation—this includes taxes.

  5. This reminds me of when I was in school. There was discussion that back in Europe’s Middle Ages, there was a matter in which the rulers wanted to eliminate all energy. Don’t recall the reason. Of course it didn’t work. So VT wants to eliminate all Carbon emissions. See a parallel?

  6. Carbon pricing, taxing, or whatever else it may be labeled, is essentially a hoax. How do the experts determine how much CO2 is produced? What methods were employed? What factors were used to separate transients from resident Vermonters? If the carpet baggers succeed in getting this proposed taxation passed, how do they plan on keeping CO2, generated outside of Vermont, from coming inside its borders? And lastly, how is a small state with less than a million population going to clean up the air that funnels into the northeast from all the states to its west?
    There is no way Vermont is going to produce so much as a detectable lowering of GHG. So the question begging for an answer is, “Why Vermont?” Is Vermont a “soft touch?” Why not focus on more important things, such as improving the quality of education, or lowering the amount of illegal drugs entering Vermont. How about working on legislation that will bring in more industry with better wages, instead of a carbon tax which could only drive away industry and jobs.

    • It is one way along with health care to control the masses. We have got to get back control of our state!

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