By Guy Page
The Washington, D.C. consulting firm picked to study Vermont carbon tax alternatives has publicly pooh-poohed the potential economic harm of carbon taxation.
This spring the Legislature funded a $125,000 study of “market decarbonization,” i.e. a carbon tax. Carbon tax supporters hope the study will help them “have a conversation” with tax-weary Vermonters. Critics say purposely raising energy prices will harm businesses and rural Vermonters and do little to cut carbon emissions. This summer, the Joint Fiscal Office awarded the study contract to Resources for the Future (RFF).
The lead RFF consultant for the Vermont contract is Marc Hafstead: environmental science author, TV pundit, and Stanford Ph.D. and researcher. He writes in his May 10 blog post “Job-Killing’ Carbon Taxes?”: “Opponents of [national] policies to price carbon will likely continue with the “job-killing” rhetoric, but careful economic analysis suggests that these arguments are seriously exaggerated.”
Hafstead downplays the job losses of a national carbon tax similar to the ESSEX plan that would rebate proceeds to some Vermont households:
“Our model estimates that a carbon tax of $40 per ton of carbon dioxide (rising over time at the rate of inflation) with the revenue returned to households via rebates would increase long-run unemployment by 0.3 percentage points. Given that the labor force is about 160 million workers, this translates into total long-run net job losses of about 480,000. By comparison, the economy has added 191,000 jobs each month, on average, from April 2017 to April 2018.”
Whew – carbon taxation will cost the United States “only” 480,000 jobs! Good thing it’s not a “job killer.” What he’s not saying is that April 2017-2018 saw strong growth based in part on a resurgent energy sector. Let’s hope he reads the Ethan Allen Institute’s own careful economic analysis, showing that even families receiving carbon tax rebates will pay more than they receive.
JFO held two under-publicized hearings Sept. 27-28 seeking public input on the Decarbonization Study. There will be no updates or progress reports until the final study goes to the Legislature in January, a JFO spokesperson said today. Meanwhile, opinions and concerns may be emailed to CarbonComments@leg.state.vt.us.
State opposition may force emissions-free hydro dam to close
The Green River Reservoir dam, operated by Morrisville Water and Light Department, may be forced to close, due to intervention by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.
For several years, ANR has insisted that Morrisville Water & Light not significantly reduce reservoir water levels to maximize carbon-free energy generation. ANR is concerned about impact on aquatic life. A judge recently agreed with ANR. The municipal utility says it must “draw down” to operate the dam safely and affordably, according to the 9/27 News & Citizen. Losing the dam would deprive Morrisville consumers of zero-carbon, renewable power generation from a wholly-owned local generating station and employer.
Amtrak may leave Vermont due to safety concerns
Vermont’s lack of cutting-edge rail safety may lead to losing Amtrak passenger service, the 9/20 County Courier reported.
Trains offer a low-emissions, low-stress form of travel. Amtrak runs trains daily from St. Albans to Essex Junction, Montpelier and points south. Although primarily an interstate form of travel, it’s also a commuting option. A one-way ride from St. Albans to Montpelier costs $17 and takes 1.25 hours.
A new Amtrak policy takes effect January 1 requiring trains to run on tracks equipped with “positive train control” (PTC), an advanced anti-collision safety system. Vermont rails lack PTC. According to an August 15 presentation to the Vermont Rail Advisory Council, installing PTC could cost up to $300 million. If Amtrak doesn’t waive its new policy, Vermont could lose Amtrak.
Anti-nuclear group opposes spent fuel transportation to Southwest U.S.
The Citizen’s Action Network (CAN) recently held public forums in Brattleboro and Montpelier where a Navajo activist decried storing spent nuclear fuel in New Mexico as “nuclear colonialism.”
Leena Morgan, organizer of the “Haul No!” movement, said proposals to move Vermont Yankee spent fuel to her state are an act of environmental injustice. CAN leader Deb Katz said it would be better to keep the spent fuel in dry casks at Vermont Yankee rather than transport it across country to be stored in an interim storage “parking lot.”
Vermont Yankee recently completed the safe, successful transfer of all spent fuel into dry cask storage. It is stored on site at the site of the former 620 MW plant in Vernon. A decision from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission about transferring the VY license from Entergy to decommissioning firm NorthStar is imminent. The Vermont Public Utilities Commission decision is likely to follow shortly thereafter, with the final transaction likely to take place before Jan. 1.
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.