Steve Thurston: Vermont climate policy is an expensive farce

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The electric grid in Vermont must operate reliably as if wind and solar do not exist, because much of the time these sources are not generating any electricity. Wind and solar are in essence redundant and add extra cost to the taxpayer who subsidizes these sources, and to the ratepayer whose electric bills are increased as a result of these sources.

This commentary is by Steve Thurston, of Ferrisburgh.

As a bedrock principle of state energy policy, Vermont law requires the Public Utility Commission to specify “strategies for reducing electric rates to the greatest extent possible in Vermont over the most immediate six-year period, for the next succeeding six-year period, and long-term sustainable strategies for achieving and maintaining the lowest possible electric rates over the full 20-year planning horizon consistent with the goal of maintaining a financially stable electric utility industry in Vermont.” Disturbingly however, by requiring highly subsidized wind and solar electricity our elected officials have prevented this law from being followed.

The electric grid in Vermont must operate reliably as if wind and solar do not exist, because much of the time these sources are not generating any electricity. Wind and solar are in essence redundant and add extra cost to the taxpayer who subsidizes these sources, and to the ratepayer whose electric bills are increased as a result of these sources. The required presence of these above-market-rate solar and wind resources is in obvious conflict with long established Vermont law.

Disregarding established energy policy, the Democrat supermajority in the Vermont legislature has in recent years given preferential treatment to renewable energy developers by requiring taxpayers and ratepayers to pay more for electricity than they otherwise would have. The legislature’s argument for these policies is to address climate change even though its “settled science” that nothing Vermont does will have any effect on the world’s climate. Policy makers and policy influencers often refer to changes in weather patterns in Vermont as a problem that must be confronted so that the maple syrup, skiing, or other weather dependent industries will not be adversely affected, but of course we know that Vermont ultimately has no control over its weather.

We are also told that if Vermont “leads the way” in the fight against climate change the rest of the world will follow.  Apparently unaware of Vermont’s leadership, at the recent Glascow COP26 climate summit, Russia, which supplies Europe with natural gas, did not even show up, and both China and India, two of the world’s biggest coal consumers refused to sign the final agreement unless coal fired electrical generation was not to be “phased out”, but rather “phased down.”  Three of the world’s major powers proved that they are more concerned about their economic well-being than climate change. China and India believe not burning coal would be worse for on people than the effects of climate change.

In a recent Bloomberg Green report on Middle East oil producers the UAE Minister of State for Climate Change promised, “as long as the world needs hydrocarbons we will continue to produce hydrocarbons.”  Likewise Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister said Saudi Arabia committed Saudi Arabia to be “net zero” by 2060, but this calculation will not include hydrocarbons that it will continue to export to an energy hungry world. The worlds largest oil exporters have no plans to stop producing oil.

Here in the United States, surveys continually find that climate change is not high on the list of people’s concerns.  In a recent Gallup poll of most important problems “Poor leadership” topped the list, followed by the pandemic, immigration, unifying the country, the economy, budget deficits, inflation, race relations.  Climate change did not make the top ten.

In the midst of all this contrary evidence, we have the Vermont Climate Council, an unelected assortment of special interests and ideologues created by the legislature when it overrode Governor Scott’s veto of the self-contradictory and deceptively named Global Warming Solutions Act.  The Climate Council recently issued its first report. This pie-in-the-sky document speaks in woke-isms of “just transitions” through an “equity lens” to an all-electric future where all Vermonters will be required to install heat pumps and drive electric vehicles.  This is not surprising, since most of the Council members were appointed by Democrat/Progressive legislators and come from backgrounds in renewable energy, community organizing, racial bias activism, or climate activism, not from the business sector where balance sheets matter. By its own admission the Council failed to engage with a significant cross section of the public. This is also understandable, because most Vermonters are not paying attention to the Climate Council, being more focused on the demands and stresses of their day to day lives.

In the Climate Council’s view, even though the existing transmission system cannot accommodate more renewable energy, not to mention the increased electrical demand of heat pumps and electric vehicles, Vermonters must bear the cost of installing heat pumps and purchasing EVs for themselves and for those who cannot afford them, while simultaneously paying more for gas and oil because of increased taxation on these fuels.  If we have to rebuild the transmission system, so be it, they say.   This at a time when Vermont has been on Federal life support during the Covid-19 induced shutdown of much of the economy, creating enormous and ongoing suffering for many residents.

As an example of its disregard for opposing views, the Climate Council ignored PUC Commissioner and energy policy expert June Tierney, who said about the proposals the council was preparing to unleash, “I don’t think Vermonters understand the Mack truck that’s coming at them when you start matching up resources to priorities this plan is going to embody. I just don’t think they understand how this is going to impact their lives and what it’s going to cost.”

One might ask, “If none of this will make a difference to Vermont’s climate, what’s the point?”   Who will profit from such irrational and economically suicidal policies which are contrary to long established law? As the saying goes, “follow the money.” Wind and solar developers buy their turbines and solar panels with subsidies provided by taxpayers. Lobbyists and special interest groups like the Conservation Law Foundation, Renewable Energy Vermont, and Vermont Public Interest Research Group are supported by wind and solar developers. Politicians receive campaign contributions from both the special interest groups and wind and solar developers. It is called crony capitalism.

Vermonters could alter this self-destructive, authoritarian course by electing new legislators with common sense, energy realism and respect for the rights of Vermonters to decide for themselves what kind of car to drive and how to heat their homes.

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18 thoughts on “Steve Thurston: Vermont climate policy is an expensive farce

  1. It is all about the politics.
    There is no rhyme or reason of course, as we all know. Steve politely spells it out. If it were about realistic fact based economic policy, energy and science, “Unreliables” like wind and solar would be Prohibited in Vermont.
    It is about the dirt ball ideology of “green lies”, of absolutism and control by the brainwashed green washed despots in VT’s. legislature under orders of the pseudo-enviro left wing fascists.
    It is about the subsidy graft of the elites, with ‘Joe and Jill Public’ being forced to pay for it .
    “Enough, our pockets will no longer be fleeced by these Scoundrels” they are now stating.
    Reality is coming into vogue as the bills rise and the house gets colder by edict.
    Then the cry ultimately becomes,”Let’s Go Brandon”!

  2. The Climate Council’s proposal to “address equity” in their plan is based on hitting the middle class to
    subsidize the increased costs to the “historically marginalized”. It is the latest ploy by the Vermont left to kill off Vermont’s working middle class and make us into a 2-class society of the elites and the dependents. I call it Vermontzuela. We vote for it every other November. Elections have consequences.

  3. STEVE,

    I am not surprised at the lack of PUBLIC TRUST in WASHINGTON and MONTPELIER.

    The games of smoke and mirrors played are off-the-charts outrageous.

    NEVER, EVER, has there been such a level of DECEIT, as Dem/Progs have inflicted on the US People, since January 2021, after using a fraudulent election to achieve a COUP D’ETAT, to have CENTRALIZED COMMAND/CONTROL over federal and state governments and the US people.

    Here is an egregious example:

    Build Back Better’ Would Cost $3.95 TRILLION Overt the Next Decade, if Provisions Were Made to Last 10 Years

    The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released an analysis on Friday estimating Biden’s ‘Build Back Better’ (BBB) bill would increase the federal deficit by $3.0 TRILLION over the next decade, if the proposed programs are made permanent, according to CNN.
    https://www.newsmax.com/politics/cbo-finance-build-back-better-bide…

    The CBO had estimated on Nov. 18, the BBB legislation would increase the nation’s deficit by $160 BILLION over the next decade, if the programs had different expiration dates.

    Some programs would expire in one year, others in two years, etc.

    This was a typical Pelosi/Sanders smoke-and-mirrors charade to make the cost of the bill look small.

    No wonder, Schumer was pressing so hard to get the mendacity bill passed: 1) before Biden goes to Glasgow, Scotland, 2) before Thanksgiving, 3) before Christmas, 4) before the end of the year.

    NO SUCH BILL WILL BE PASSED, EVER.

    Dem/Progs have absolutely no intention of letting ANY programs expire. They would fight tooth and mail to EXTEND all of them for the full 10 years.

    The smoke and mirrors, $2.11 TRILLION BBB bill, passed by the US House of Representatives last month, would establish universal preschool, expand Medicaid, provide green energy tax credits, and add roughly $1.95 TRILLION in new taxes, and add $160 BILLION to the deficit, Fox News reported.

    The “new taxes” is another smoke and-mirrors charade, because they would need to be voted on, and likely would not be implemented.

    “If the temporary provisions of this bill were extended, and I fully expect them to be, if Dem/Progs have the votes to do it, this legislation will cost a whole lot more than what the American people have been misled to believe,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

    Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a critic of the plan, and its extensive costs, accused the Biden administration of using “gimmicks” to downplay the bill’s cost.

    “As more of the real details outlined in the basic framework are released, what I see are shell games and budget gimmicks that make the real cost of this so-called “$1.75 trillion bill” to be at least twice as high, if the programs are extended, or made permanent,” Manchin said

    The REALISTIC COST of the bill would be: $1.95 TRILLION, new taxes + $3.0 TRILLION, added to the US deficit = $3.95 TRILLION

    Democrats, who hold a narrow Senate majority, will need Manchin’s vote to pass BBB.

    Manchin has yet to endorse the package, as proposed, and will probably seek to make significant changes, according to CNBC.

    Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizizona, may seek to change the bill in the Senate.
    She already shot down the administration’s effort to hike tax rates on large corporations and wealthy individuals, per CNBC.

    All this ADDED DEFICIT SPENDING would be taking place with inflation at over 6%/y

    Related Stories:
    Manchin Calls for a ‘Lot of Changes’ to Build Back Better Act
    Rep. Estes to Newsmax: US ‘Better Off’ If Build Back Better Fails i…

  4. Hydro Quebec, our next-door neighbor (literally a stone’s throw away), is offering Vermont all the electricity it needs at a wholesale cost of about 6 or 7 cents per kwh. Currently, Vermont purchases about 30% of its electricity from Hydro Quebec. As a back-up, Vermont has a contract with the Seabrook nuclear plant to provide power for about the same price. Conversely, Vermont purchases about 30% of its electricity demand from comparatively unreliable wind and solar power for more than twice that price. The remainder of Vermont’s power comes from regional hydro power.

    If Vermont’s PUC agreed to purchase most of its power from Hydro Quebec, keeping Seabrook as a backup, and stopped investing in expensive wind and solar power, our electric bills would be significantly less than they are now.

    So, why doesn’t the PUC authorize the purchase of more Hydro Quebec power?

    Because of ‘crony capitalism’. Peter Welch and his wife, PUC board member Margaret Cheney, pretty much control Vermont’s energy policy. They are political operatives. And folks like Duane Peterson, a former VIPRG board-member who, after lobbying for favorable energy policy, founded Vermont’s largest solar energy business (SunCommon) – selling it for $22.5 million in cash and $17.5 million in iSun stock. VIPRG, in case you didn’t know, is the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. It is the largest nonprofit consumer and environmental advocacy organization in Vermont.

    Go figure.

    • Jay, you’ve got it right when it comes to climate change actions, the PUC and I’ll add the Vermont legislature are owned by the activists organizations, renewable energy industry, lobbyists and paid consultants…….. There is no need to “Go Figure”, it’s known how the system operates.

      What we can only speculate on is why members of the PUC and the legislature are so spineless when it comes to challenging the bromides offered by activists and renewable industry……Why wouldn’t the policy makers want to listen to other knowledgable individuals who have repeatedly raised opposing points of view and real problems with proposed climate solutions?

      Listening to only one side of the story never results in the formulation of the best plans…….And make no mistake, climate plans made in Vermont are a product of input from those with vested interests who have essentially one point of view.

      • “Why wouldn’t the policy makers want to listen to other knowledgable individuals who have repeatedly raised opposing points of view and real problems with proposed climate solutions?”

        There’s no money it for them. It’s just that simple.

        • I think the issue is more complicated than money……I don’t mean to be overly dramatic, but it’s more like a herd mentality, a brainwashing, a fear or lack of energy to go against the herd thinking. The policy makers/legislators are repeatedly inundated with so called data from multiple activists/renewable energy industry encounters and ultimately an echo chamber is created of manufactured climate truths.

          The policy makers/legislators are subjected to an echo chamber that leads to repeating to each other what they are fed and what they are repeating become the truth…..This is how propagandists manipulate populations into believing. Pushing against the climate orthodoxy can isolate the questioner resulting in humiliation or rejection by the herd…….This means eating alone in the Capital cafeteria……and most herd members want no part of being separated from the herd.

          To avoid isolation from the herd, an individual must be able to strongly rebut and push back against the herd’s climate orthodoxy…….This takes hard work and is difficult to do, thus most questioners who are also policy makers/legislators rationalize their thinking, eschew the fight and sadly settle for safety of the herd.

          For the activist organizations, renewable energy industry, lobbyist and paid consultants it’s definitely about the money……For the policy makers/legislators it’s more about the herd mentality and the power of the echo chamber created by the people and entities in the game for the money.

  5. Good Article Steve.. all this boils down to is CONTROL. As for the ones heading all of this Climate Council are people who are from out of state. friends of the legislators and you know darn well it’s the truth. None of them care about Vermont and its citizens. They only care about their pockets, their investments into all of this
    Tell me how many true Vermonters can afford $80-100 grand for an electric car??? Besides electric cars are unsafe in extremely cold weather.. they tend to blow up or catch on fire. Solar power is a joke as far as I am concerned. Vermont doesn’t get enough sun for one. and they don’t last forever and then what, they are not easy to depose of. They don’t want you to burn wood.. So let’s do what is easier.. take CONTROL to make people do what we tell them, The legislators treat us Vermonters as if we are stupid, that we don’t know anything. Sorry … Vermont was a great state until you out-siders moved in and started taking over. 98% of the legislators are out of staters.. I will not comply, I will do what I want, drive what I want, and heat with what I want. as an 8th generation Vermonter. I say kiss my butt and get to hell out of my state.
    TAKE BACK VERMONT

  6. It’s grid will never keep up with ever increasing demand, if RE promoters get their way. The demand, as more EVs and heat pumps are put online will overdraw the grid and the windmills and solar fields won’t be able to satiate the demand. To put the cherry on top of the ice cream, Big government, in order to make things work, will own control of your thermostat, since the heat pump will be the single highest power user in everyone’s homes, in order to control brown outs and rolling blackouts. Dark image isn’t it? We’ll think so when, in the future we throw a light switch and turn on the heat, but only get a cold darkness, because the power company has diverted our power to a more affluent area. Rural folks will suffer the most. But that okay as far as the proponents of wind, solar, EVs, and heat pumps are concerned. They expect them to move into towns and cities in order to simplify their jobs.

  7. Just part of the global greenwashing that is actually an energy and resource grab.
    By the plan, man.
    Written down and in print.

  8. Well said, Steve. The VCC’s CAP is clear about what the VCC members think must be done to spare the world from Al Gore’s heat death – but you will look in vain for any prices on the menu. The Clean Heating Standard, for example is an elaborate – even ingenious – scheme to reward energy service companies for with funny money credits for getting consumers to abandon oil heat – at the expense of fuel oil wholesalers who will be required to purchase those credits to keep from being fined by the PUC. End result: heating consumers pay higher prices for fuel oil, in order to reward energy service companies for selling homeowners on getting rid of petroleum fueled heat and installing heat pumps etc, at the customer’s own expense. Remember: the PUC has become the 4th branch of government, effectively beyond control of elected ;legislators.

  9. Thank you Willem, for your tireless efforts to use facts and data to show Vermont’s current energy policy as a cul-de-sac, not a way forward.

  10. Mr. Thurston……..Excellent commentary and summary of what has been repeatedly stated about Vermont’s quixotic approach to climate change that is exceedingly idealistic, unrealistic and impractical.

    The Vermont narrative and process on climate change policy has been dominated by climate activists, activist organizations, the renewable energy industries and lobbyist (Many of them out of state) plus Democrats and Progressives in the Legislature. Rebutting this well financed and massive effort are the efforts of Vermont individuals like Willem Post, John McClaughry, Rob Roper, Steve Thurston and a few others.

    A public debate of the issues raised and perhaps argued by Steve Thurston, Willem Post, John McClaughry and/or others against what has been proposed by the Climate Council would be in the public interest. There has not been a formal public debate that challenges the work product of the Climate Council………The people or Vermont are owed this debate.

    How can this be arranged?

    who have raised critical concerns over the flaws in the Climate Council’s Action Plan is needed.

  11. Hi Steve,

    Thank you for this well-reasoned article

    RE folks often insist on banning additional gas and oil pipelines, and gas and oil storage systems, to make sure fossil fuels would be “left in the ground”. They insist almost all of the world’s energy must come from solar, wind, and water.

    This article has a detailed analysis of when wind is 20% and solar is 10% on the NE grid in 2050.
    The cost of implementing and operating this is OFF-THE-CHARTS OUTRAGEOUS

    WIND AND SOLAR TO PROVIDE 30 PERCENT OF NEW ENGLAND ELECTRICITY CONSUMPTION BY 2050
    https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/wind-and-solar-provide-50-percent-of-future-new-england

    Energy systems analysts of Denmark, Ireland, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, etc., have known for decades, if you have a significant percentage of (wind + solar) on your grid, you better have available:

    – An adequate capacity, MW, of other power plants to counteract any variations of (W+S), 24/7/365
    – High-capacity, MW, connections to nearby grids
    – An adequate capacity of energy storage, such as:

    1) Pumped hydro storage
    2) Hydro plants with reservoir storage
    3) Grid-scale battery systems

    The more presence of variable (W+S) on the NE grid, the more the other generators have to vary their outputs, which causes these other generators to be less efficient (more wear and tear, more Btu/kWh, more CO2/kWh).
    Owners in European countries with much wind and solar on the grids get compensated for their losses.
    Those compensations are charged to the general public, not to the Owners of wind and solar systems, as part of the political (subsidy + cost shifting) regimen, to make wind and solar appear price-competitive versus fossil fuels.

    RE folks often advocate:

    1) Electricity must be 100% renewable, or zero carbon, or carbon-neutral by 2050
    2) Getting rid of the remaining nuclear plants
    3) Getting rid of natural gas, coal, and oil plants
    4) More biomass burning

    About This Article

    This article has four parts and an Appendix

    Part 1 provides an introduction to miscellaneous energy topics, and consumption of world energy quantities
    Part 2 provides an introduction to existing NE grid conditions
    Part 3 provides an introduction to daily NE grid load shaping, to deal with heat pumps and EVs in 2030
    Part 4 provides the future NE grid conditions with 20% wind and 10% solar in 2050
    The Appendix shows various energy topics, such as Turnkey Capital Costs of Grid-scale Battery Systems; Grid-scale Battery System Operating Cost in New England; Energy Losses of Battery Systems; “All-in” Electricity Cost of Wind and Solar in New England

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