State Headliners: Election Day mattered to state, national, global energy policies

By Guy Page

Election Day results from Vermont and across the United States may profoundly affect state, national and global energy policy.

On the international level: Emboldened by gains in Senate, which must approve both presidential appointees and treaties, U.S. President Donald Trump has publicly defending himself as an anti-globalist nationalist and has nominated a new Environmental Protection Administration chief who strongly backs his goal of U.S. energy dominance.

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Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership, the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare, and Physicians, Families & Friends for a Better Vermont.

Trump withdrew the U.S. from the United Nations Paris Climate Accords June 1, 2017, calling them “an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries.” His nationalist, pro-capitalist, free-market vision seems at odds with U.N. policy affirmed by former U.N. Climate Change chief Christina Figueres, who said in 2015: “This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the industrial revolution.”

Figueres’ vision was on display Oct. 30 when she advised a friendly audience at Oxford University in England “to [the reporter paraphrased] make a change in their personal lives – eat less meat, use public transport or cycle as much as possible, know where your money and investments are to avoid supporting high-carbon assets, and finally, vote!”

On the federal level, it’s unlikely a gridlocked Congress will agree to challenge the President’s Affordable Clean Energy rule, which promotes all-fuels energy (wind/solar renewables and fossil and nuclear) and replaces President Obama’s so-called “Clean Energy Plan” prioritized wind and solar. In fact the Supreme Court rejected the Obama plan because it was all about picking energy winners and losers, and you can guess who it picked. The pro-Trump Senate is expected to confirm his nomination of Andrew Wheeler, a big supporter of the Affordable Clean Energy rule, to run the EPA.

On the state level nationwide, as Ethan Allen Institute founder John McClaughry and I have both pointed out in recent columns, voters of the solidly blue State of Washington resoundingly rejected a carbon tax referendum on election. Arizona voters said no to renewable energy standards. Colorado voters said no to limiting natural gas hydrofracking. The left-leaning New Republic magazine headline said accurately albeit with sour grapes: “America voted. The Climate lost.” It blamed energy lobby spending, not voters’ awareness that their own prosperity is linked to affordable, reliable, plentiful energy. New Republic also noted that in Florida, would-be governor Andrew Gillum and Sen. Bill Nelson both ran on climate-strong platforms, and lost.

In New England, solar and wind supporters are upset that the heretofore reliably anti-nuclear Union of Concerned Scientists now supports existing nuclear power plants as vital carbon-reducers: “More than one-third of US nuclear plants are unprofitable or scheduled to close. If they’re replaced by natural gas, emissions will rise — with serious consequences for the climate,” the UCS stated Nov. 8. In the same vein, New England governors have praised nuclear power’s value for carbon emissions and power grid reliability.

Here in Vermont, voters gave House Democrats and Progressives a super-majority and re-elected Gov. Phil Scott. This coming session will likely answer two questions:

  • Can the supermajority muster enough votes to override an expected carbon tax bill veto by Gov. Phil Scott? Support for the carbon tax is strongest in the Chittenden-County heavy Climate Caucus. The pro-carbon tax lobby group VPIRG reports that 40 percent of all 2019 House members had, as candidates, signed its “No Fossil Fuels Money” pledge. In a state with a powerful, generous renewable power lobby and virtually no fossil fuel generation or refining industry, signing the pledge was not a Profiles In Courage moment. Whether these same lawmakers will go further out on a limb and vote to tax heating oil and gasoline is anyone’s guess.
  • Will Act 250 be revised to reduce carbon emissions and promote renewable power development? The Commission update Act 250 is expected to recommend sweeping changes in Vermont land use and planning law. It will probably recommend more regulatory control, and not less. Climate change wasn’t on anyone’s radar in when Act 250 was passed in 1970. Last year’s Act 250 review law cites the importance of climate change. A draft report is due this month, and the Legislature is likely to act in the next Session. The Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee last session considered (but then shelved) a plan to create a new regulatory apparatus empowered to vote thumbs up or thumbs down on proposed development, based in part on carbon output. State House observers would not be shocked if similar powers are proposed for Act 250 regulators. However, energy generation itself is covered by Act 248, not Act 250.

Gov. Scott’s re-election strongly suggests the governor-appointed Vermont Public Utilities Commission will remain skeptical of instate ridgeline wind power generation. It also promises continued State support for Canadian – Southern New England transmission projects running through Vermont, including underneath Lake Champlain. Most Vermonters will be paying less for energy efficiency, thanks to a Nov. 6 PUC decision to reduce residential rates by three percent and keep business/industry rates flat, Vermont Public Radio reported  Nov. 13.

Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.

Images courtesy of Sarah Swenty/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Page Communications

One thought on “State Headliners: Election Day mattered to state, national, global energy policies

  1. WHAT AN INTERESTING STORY – there has been the ‘parameterizing’ (we could say ‘fudging’) of the 31 climate models, to give an “anticipated acceptable rate” of warming results ….
    We’ve had some very solid weather data as far back as the 1920’s. BUT – Data gathering started in the early 70’s. WHY, one might ask? 50 years of data was conveniently left out because if included, the climate models ‘couldn’t produce’ the desired data (outcome) indicating a desired rise in warming numbers! So …. it’s the scientists, not the science, that’s determining how much its going to warm.

    It all started back in the latter 70’s – a battle ensued between energy producers – coal v. nuclear – What did we end up with after this battle? Solar and wind ….
    It’s like going from driving a Maserati to a Model A.

    Their analysis of storm damage is interesting also. The scientists carefully omit the fact that there are many more people, living in many more areas along the coast, with many more building structures, ergo the extensive damage numbers. What are the 5 deadliest hurricanes in US history?
    Galveston, Texas, 1900: 8,000 deaths. Lake Okeechobee, Fla., 1928: 2,500 deaths. Katrina (La./Miss.), 2005: 1,800 deaths. Cheniere Caminanda, La., 1893: 1,100 – 1,400 deaths. Aug 21, 2008 …. NOTICE THE DATES – but let’s not include that data.

    Scientists are typically attached to universities which are typically government funded. The reason for the data fudging (desired climate modeling outcomes) is to maintain the funding flow. So you see that almost all modeling show pretty much the same results. NONE OF WHICH MATCH WHAT IS TAKING PLACE! Yet they want us to believe the modeling is correct.

    Two things to look at
    and the interview at ‘Life, Liberty & Levin’ – Ep 36
    Interview with Dr. Patrick Michaels

    WHAT WE AREN’T HEARING …. are the effects of what makes plants grow – CO2. There has been a 5% increase world wide of grazing landscapes (grasslands). Read that – food for animals to eat.

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