McClaughry: The latest climate stealth tax

By John McClaughry

A decade ago I wrote a column entitled “Reactionary Liberalism.” That’s the pernicious practice of legislators who believe government ought to fund large programs, but who dare not face the wrath of taxpayers when they’re required to pay for those programs.

“Reactionary liberalism contrives to use the power of government to force third parties to shoulder the costs of its liberal agenda. Those third parties — usually private businesses — are then forced to raise their prices to cover the additional burden of supporting the mandated benefits.”

John McClaughry

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

“Those additional costs are thus transferred from the business to its customers or ratepayers. And the perverse beauty of this, from the reactionary liberalism standpoint, is that the victims who are paying can’t figure out who to blame for having less money in their pockets.”

A month from now the most audacious reactionary liberalism idea for 2020 will be unveiled. It’s called the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI). The driving force behind it is, of course, the perceived (by some) pressing need to combat the Menace of Climate Change.

Since 2015, a coalition led by the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) has tried to peddle a $500 million a year carbon tax to make people quit burning carbon-based fuels, and at the same time generate lots of revenues for the government to hand out to needy groups, like solar farm developers, heat pump installers and electric car dealers.

But even the present overwhelmingly liberal legislature won’t buy it. So the climate change activists have hit upon another strategy.

Forty-three percent of Vermont’s carbon dioxide emissions come from transportation fuels burned by cars, trucks and motorcycles. So the activists have invented a 12-state agreement that will impose an annually escalating gasoline and on-road diesel fuel tax that every Vermont motorist, truck and bus owner will have to pay, but no legislator will ever have to vote for.

This is a reactionary liberalism dream: extract millions of dollars from people who can’t figure out why their motor fuel bills are steadily creeping up, and spread the revenues around to pay for “carbon reduction investments.”

The TCI was conceived by lawyers at the Georgetown University Law Center, mainly funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. This is ironic because it was the grandfather of the five Rockefeller brothers, John D. Rockefeller, who made America’s greatest fortune by producing, refining and marketing fossil fuel.

The TCI is astoundingly — one might even say diabolically — complex. The details, not yet finalized, will emerge in a draft memorandum of understanding (MOU) scheduled to appear in December. After public input, the MOU will go to Gov. Phil Scott. His signature would put Vermont into the 12-state deal.

Then either the regulated terminals that supply motor fuel to 80 Vermont distributors, or the distributors themselves, will have to purchase “allowances,” the cost of which will be inconspicuously added into the price paid by consumers.

The TCI’s administrative body will decide how many allowances must be issued to sufficiently drive up the price of motor fuel, thus reducing the amount of motor fuel consumed, thus reducing to below an arbitrary TCI-set cap those awful carbon dioxide emissions that are driving the planet toward Al Gore’s heat death.

Did I mention that no legislator will ever vote on this stealth carbon tax? Gov. Phil Scott, alone, can plunge Vermont into this mega-scheme to sock Vermonters with a carbon tax that the TCI backers hope they’ll never figure out.

But Scott has repeatedly voiced his opposition to a carbon tax. What if he refuses to sign on to the MOU? Here’s another diabolical feature. If he doesn’t sign the MOU, Vermont motorists will still be forced to pay for the cost of the allowances hidden up the supply chain in Massachusetts and New York. But Vermont would not be eligible to receive its assigned share of the net revenues (after enormous enforcement and legal costs) from the TCI allowance sales.

Here’s the short takeaway. The TCI memorandum of understanding is designed to make Vermont consumers pay a steadily increasing carbon tax on their gasoline and diesel fuel. No legislator will ever vote on imposing this tax. It will just happen, courtesy of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the climate change warriors like VPIRG who extol its benefits. After 10 years of increasing motor fuel prices, the TCI will have produced no detectable effect whatever on climate change.

It will be a glorious triumph for reactionary liberalism. Just not for you.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Images courtesy of Public domain and John McClaughry

10 thoughts on “McClaughry: The latest climate stealth tax

  1. Falsely inflating fuel prices is what this would be. There are federal regulations and penalties for this. Probably could be fought in court if needed. It’s also profiteering which the Fed frowns on. They would be controlling profits under the disguise of taxes. Organizations don’t have the legal right to impose taxes on the public, only government’s do through legislation. Only a politician with a death wish would vote for such. Remember what happened in France over a carbon tax. Remember what happened in this country when England demanded more taxes. To bad there aren’t laws against fear mongering.

  2. John, this is as scary as it can get. How did it come to a point in any universe of reason where a ubiquitous multi-state, non-governmental committee can create a process that will subject taxpayers to increased costs without any method of recourse for the taxpayer. You are absolutely right that this is a Progressive/Liberal/Socialist dream. And why, in God’s name would Gov. Scott want to sign onto something that will sidestep and ignore due legislative process in Vermont?
    The “World According to Vermont” is becoming so bizarre as to be unfashionable and has turned, what I always thought was the responsibility of a state, upside down.
    What am I missing here?

  3. Amazing , our AG has not sued to stop this action!!! After all the AG in Vermont ( and all these NE states ) , are for the people and state , not a political adgenda . right ??? RIGHT !!! HA ! Mother Russia will be so proud of these dirt bags !

  4. How can the governor authorize taxing the Vermont citizens and have the money go else where?

    And if you are one who’s looking to reduce their carbon foot print, why aren’t we providing the tools?

    It’s a con, if we had the tools the problem would be solved for everyone. They just want money, it’s all the want. Give us your money, give us your money and suddenly no more end of the world. Too funny.

  5. John, I’m not clear on how the TCI can pull off this stunt. By whose authority do these people can this hidden “tax” be imposed on the supply chain? It would seem that the ” we exist therefore we can impose our will on all” argument doesn’t fly. Having said that the TCI and all that stands for is rediculous.

  6. Here we go again, our inept staff in Montpelier, how do we fund another foolish project,
    Oh yeah, lets tax hard-working Vermonter that needs their vehicle for work we have
    a captive audience !!

    We have a state that is already in disrepair, debt, unfunded liabilities with people already
    being overtaxed and now this boondoggle, and the Golden Dome can’t understand why
    people are leaving the state…… Inept fools.

    Follow the current gas and fuel oil prices across the states or even just in New England
    you’ll see Vermont is already getting porked by its distributors ” greed, greed ” they don’t
    care, that’s why one ” RLV ” is protesting Costco Station.

    Oh yeah, check out the gas prices in California, that’s the direction Vermont is headed
    for, and you can see how that’s fairing for the left coast !!

    As stated in this article, after 10 years of increasing motor fuel prices, the TCI will have
    produced ” no detectable ” effect whatever on climate change, it’s all hype !!

    Wake up, people…Liberals, running ” ruining ” the state, for an agenda, agenda, agenda !!

    • California is a unique exception. It has large population areas that retain vehicle and industrial emissions. It has an exceptionally high number of vehicles. The extra taxes on California’s gasoline and Diesel fuels were put in place though state legislation, not some think tank organization out to make money that it can spend on energy technology that doesn’t work in the Northeast. California used those fuel taxes to clean up their air and continues to do so today. What California did not only benefits Californians but folks in Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada. I traveled through Arizona and New Mexico in 1971 and you couldn’t see the mountains for the California smog. I went through this October and you can see mountains, valleys, plateaus, even the straight highways for twenty miles.

  7. Gas in Tennessee is currently $2.19 – $2.29 In Northwest Vermont gas is currently $2.69. With every ridiculous money grabbing proposition coming out of Montpelier, the lure of the low taxes, inexpensive property values and fewer freedom robbing regulations in Tennessee will make that state a great place to retire to.

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