By Guy Page
When Yellow Vest protesters against carbon taxation rally Wednesday, Jan. 9 at the Vermont Statehouse, climate change activists will be considering three different types of carbon taxation on Vermonters.
First is a direct tax on carbon fuel consumption. Carbon tax proponents hope a $125,000 “market decarbonization” study expected on Jan. 15 will give legislation a push. The State hired a pro-carbon tax consulting firm Resources for the Future to perform the study.
Second is regional pricing on transportation fossil fuels. The Transportation Carbon Initiative (TCI) is a nine-state (plus Washington DC) “cap and trade” scheme in which high-polluting states pay low-polluting states, via an “auction” of pollution credits. The more you pollute, the more you pay. The one-year design phase was publicly announced Dec. 18. Vermont officials insist they will not agree to implementation if the design phase shows it won’t help Vermont. This could prove difficult: 54 percent of all Vermont emissions come from transportation, highest among all TCI members. Maine (just behind Vermont with 52.2 percent), New Hampshire and New York opted to not join the design phase.
Third is payment of “carbon offsets” for all Act 250 development above net-zero emissions. A bill proposed Dec. 14 by the Commission to Review Act 250 would require developers of all projects under Act 250 review to achieve net-zero emissions in construction and operation, or pay “carbon offsets”. Like the TCI, Act 250 carbon offsets are a “pay to pollute” scheme. Costs initially borne by businesses would, necessarily, be passed on to the consumer in the form of higher gas and home construction costs.
At least one legislator who voted for the Act 250 rewrite is livid at the outcome. Rep. Steve Beyor (R-Highgate, Franklin) wrote to Headliners Saturday: “I, for one, wanted the board to look at the whole Act 250 and 248 process, to streamline the process, to make it faster, easier, and cheaper, not to add to and make it harder. I guess that maybe the saying, be careful what you ask for, still applies. As a member of the house committee that requested the study, I am sorry!”
Why do climate-change activists demand carbon taxation? Surely they must know how it will most impact poor, rural Vermonters. The utilitarian answer — it’s the only practical way to make people use less gas and heating oil– was eloquently expressed by activist, writer and Ripton resident Bill McKibben in a 2016 op-ed entitled “Why We Need A Carbon Tax, and Why It Won’t Be Enough”:
“Every action of a modern life involves using fossil fuel. The only way to get enough change is to send a price signal through the matrix, so that everyone from investors to car buyers to electric-toothbrush-users will find their behavior changing automatically. It’s the one big action that encompasses all the others.”
Vermonters utilize fossil fuels out of necessity. To make us “do the right thing” and set an example for the rest of the world, climate tax proponents in government would make our addiction too painful to continue. We are the alcoholics. The carbon tax is the Antabuse.
When the 2019 Legislative Session opens Jan. 9, the Yellow Vests will rally at the Statehouse from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. It will be interesting to see if the financial concerns of rural, grassroots Vermonters move the climate activists in power to consider a more co-operative strategy.
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.