By Guy Page
Recent headlines offer both good news and warnings for Vermonters concerned about energy costs and climate.
Earth’s ozone layer is healing
The upper atmosphere of the Northern Hemisphere should be healed by 2030, and the worst spots at the poles will be healed by mid-century, global scientists reported last week, as reported by the Nov. 5 Guardian. In addition to reducing the likelihood of cancer, the healing of the ozone layer should help reduce global warming, UN scientists said.
Verdict: Good news! And we don’t even miss our aerosol deodorant cans.
Voters in State of Washington reject carbon tax – again
The State of Washington by referendum voted against a carbon tax Tuesday Nov. 6. This news from RTO Insider: “Washington voters solidly defeated a ballot initiative that would have placed a fee on the state’s carbon emissions, with collected revenues used to fund environmental programs. I-1631 went down with 56% voting “no,” despite polls leading up to the election showing about 50% of potential voters favoring the measure and about 36% opposed.” It’s the second time Washington State has turned down a carbon tax. And polls claiming voter support were wrong, wrong, wrong.
Verdict: Good news of solidarity from another “blue” state for Vermont carbon tax critics who question the supposed “popularity” of paying more for gasoline and heating oil.
“New York, New York, what a short-sighted town, the taxes are up and the people are down”
Proposed carbon emission taxes on New York City buildings would jeopardize “rent controlled” units and raise rents across the city, the 11/2 Huffington Post reports. The regs could add to the city’s homeless population of 76,000, already the largest in the nation.
NYC already has a tiny per capita carbon footprint thanks to zero-carbon nuclear power, well-traveled, electrified mass transit, and relatively tiny living spaces. In many ways NYC is already the low-carbon poster child for Vermont’s energy planning. But the city’s climate planners insist it’s not enough. They want to tax rents to pay for major, required building improvements is the way to go – even if it wrecks rent control and puts more people on the street. Note also that NYC doesn’t plan to plow tax proceeds into climate adaptation, like better protection against storm-surges.
Verdict: Bad news — climate taxation will never be satisfied even when all of today’s climate-reduction boxes are checked. When your pro-carbon tax legislator says it will only hurt a little, don’t believe it. The state of Vermont needs a new, market-based paradigm to promote cleaner air and lower emissions.
A new study shows that even when “levelized” for environmental impacts, natural gas is still the most cost-effective power source in Vermont and New England. The University of Texas – Austin study features an interactive map that lets you click on any county in Vermont to find the lowest-cost electricity fuel-source. At present, the map says the best buy is $65 per megawatt-hour for natural gas in Washington County and throughout New England. However, on the Midwestern plains wind power is king, and in parts of sunny southern California, solar power is the cheapest source of electricity.
Verdict: Good news for all parts of the country, which can now better choose what form of electricity generation work best for them.
Vermont now burning ultra-low sulfur heating oil
This winter and from now on, all heating oil sold in Vermont will be an ultra-low sulfur blend. Sulfur is the main ingredient in smog, which even in Vermont can be visible on cold days in valley areas (such as seen by I-89 commuters in Waterbury).
The new fuel blend reduces 97 percent of air-borne emissions, and is sold at no extra cost to consumers. Also, it burns cleaner in furnaces, requiring less servicing. The transition to this cleaner fuel is part of a 2011 law supported by Vermont’s heating oil industry.
Verdict: such awesome good news for the beauty of our state and the health of our lungs that it’s amazing that some of our politicians and media have ignored it. Perhaps because it doesn’t fit their pro-tax, anti-fossil fuels message.
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.