McClaughry: The EV subsidy train picks up speed

By John McClaughry

Chairman Anthony Roisman of the Public Utility Commission has made it official: Vermont is facing a “Pearl Harbor moment.” We in Vermont must launch a “wartime effort” like the United States did in 1942 to establish dominance over the lurking menace of “climate change.”

The occasion for this alarming metaphorical excess was the release by the PUC of a report commissioned by the 2018 Legislature, entitled “Promoting the Ownership and Use of Electric Vehicles in the State of Vermont.” Its punch line is “Bold legislation, including identifying and appropriating meaningful funds to enable additional EV adoption and EV charging station deployment, will continue to establish Vermont as an EV-supportive environment, and will facilitate progress towards Vermont’s GHG emissions reduction responsibilities.”

John McClaughry

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

The measure of our success will be the appearance of 60,000 electric vehicles on Vermont’s streets and highways by 2025. If the Legislature votes enough subsidies to enable Roisman’s “wartime effort” to attain that goal, today’s 3,000 EVs will increase to 60,000. That will require an astonishing 54 percent growth rate compounded annually for six years.

Transportation produces 47 percent of the state’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The 2016 Comprehensive Energy Plan — the one no legislator ever voted on — calls for reducing transportation sector GHG emissions by 30 percent by 2025. Thus, the report avers, “if Vermont is to meet its GHG reduction goals, it is critical that barriers to the deployment of EV infrastructure and to the purchase and use of EVs themselves be addressed and eliminated to the extent possible.”

To that end, the 2019 Legislature created a new EV subsidy program. Says the report: “Given the uncertainty surrounding the federal tax credit, it is becoming increasingly important for the State of Vermont to take a larger role in providing incentives for EV purchases if the State is to meet its emissions-reduction goals, at least until EVs reach cost-parity with internal combustion engine vehicles.”

As I observed last month, the new law offers more EV purchase and lease incentives to “help all Vermonters to benefit from electric driving including [of course!] Vermont’s most vulnerable.” If you’re sufficiently economically challenged, you can fight climate change by driving a $40,000 EV that will be the envy of your neighbors, at least until they find out how much subsidy it took to close the deal.

The Legislature responsibly charged the PUC with finding a way “to achieve the goals … without shifting costs to electric ratepayers who do not own or operate EVs.” It did discuss that issue, but showed no hesitation about shifting costs to taxpayers. In effect, the report wants to spend carbon tax revenues to subsidize thousands of EVs, even though the Legislature doesn’t dare pass a carbon tax bill that Gov. Phil Scott will assuredly veto.

How about asking EV drivers to contribute to highway maintenance? The report rejects an EV registration surcharge. It is willing to explore a per-kilowatt-hour fee for EVs, but notes a host of inequities and complications that would ensue, especially for electric utilities charged with billing and collecting it. It’s pretty clear that growing numbers of subsidized EVs will continue to ride free on Vermont’s roads for the indefinite future — if for no other reason than charging them for the privilege would dampen the EV enthusiasm that the Legislature is so keen on stimulating.

In the course of preparing the report, Roisman’s PUC managed a year of hearings among “stakeholders.” The group included state agency officials, electric utility officials and auto industry participants. But it also included a parade of self-appointed “stakeholders,” a Grecian chorus dedicated to inflating the menace of climate change and demanding a vast collection of subsidies, taxes, mandates and prohibitions to stamp it out. Just to name seven: Union of Concerned Scientists, Regulatory Assistance Project, Sierra Club, Conservation Law Foundation, Vermont Natural Resource Council, VPIRG and, of course, the chief EV lobby group, Drive Electric Vermont.

And who represented the real “stakeholders,” the motorists, ratepayers and taxpayers of Vermont? As usual, nobody.

There is a place for (unsubsidized) EVs, when and where they meet the needs and desires of consumers. And leaving aside the obligatory endorsement of the beliefs of the climate change activists, it must be said that the report contains a lot of useful information and analysis of the complexities of the issue, clearly and fairly presented. Once they get past Roisman’s Pearl Harbor metaphor, legislators will benefit from reading it, if they keep their wits about them.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Images courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR and John McClaughry
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10 thoughts on “McClaughry: The EV subsidy train picks up speed

  1. Ok I’ve been thinking long and hard on the solution to the leftarded problem of needing 57,000 more ev’s to meet their stupid quota to accomplish nothing.. I figure if we weld 2 of them battery powered scooters together we’d have a 4 wheel platform that would just need a phone booth type cover in the winter. This would be required in the metropolis of Burlapington, Muddlebury, and Ruttland, and any other leftarded community. We can easily make the quota and it won’t cost any where near the $2,280,000,000. of the cost of ev market cars.. See just a little Vt ingenuity can solve a lot of problems..

    ps: the rest of us won’t have to suffer buying one this way..

  2. Next step for the oligarchy will be to devise a method to sell the remaining, scarce, government owned CO2 to the agricultural and livestock businesses that must have it. Those who can’t compete will have plenty of time to take short car trips in order to enjoy the visual pollution known as solar panels and ridge-top windmills.

  3. The sky is falling, the sky is falling!!! When did Chicken Little become a member of the Public Utilities Commission???? And besides there is no way that the 30,000 goal will be achievable with all the folks who can afford one leaving the state, unless if and it’s a big IF, those remaing become owners of at least 3 EVs per household. The who EV idea is fantacy.

  4. Bring on the EV’s. The electric companies are loving it as they fatten up their coffers.
    This State is shrinking fast into its own abyss.

  5. I want all those people who want everyone to have an EV, to chip in and buy me one. — Just to make themselves happy.

  6. Where is the Magic Electric power going to come from for 60,000 EV?

    They are already asking us to cut electric use for 2 days due to steamy weather over the weekend.

    Must we take cold showers so that the neighbor can drive his Tesla to Montpelier to lobby for more EV subsidies and mandates??

  7. We may be in a war time effort but it’s fighting off the stupidity of labeling the drive to
    socialism as fighting mother nature. Climatetardism is the enemy and it’s
    a growing menace. Taking the citizens wealth to fight an invisible enemy that can’t be defeated is probably right up there with the Emperors idea of Japans
    ability to defeat America. In the face of mounting evidence of no Human involvement as a cause or no concernable uptick in ocean temps, the loonie left continues to push the lie even harder. The little fascist will have their feelz good
    moment even if it drives us all to the poor house. Proven science be dammed full speed ahead with leftist ship of fools.

  8. No one forced people to abandon horses in favor of cars despite all the horse manure.
    People started buying cars when they saw the advantage of doing so. I will buy an electric car when they become a reasonable alternative to my combustion engine car, which is not yet the case.

  9. Chairman Anthony Roisman of the Public Utility Commission has made it official: Vermont
    is facing a “Pearl Harbor moment.” We in Vermont must launch a “wartime effort”, sounds
    like just another liberal crying wolf again…….. Agenda based rhetoric.

    This sky is falling rhetoric, why doesn’t the chairman take a look at the states that are the real
    cause, as his liberal-minded ” fools ” in California, they spew more toxins into the atmosphere
    in a week then Vermont will in ten years, but they are leading this charade.

    And the Chairman stating ” “Pearl Harbor Moment.” is appalling !!

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