Roper: The Legislature’s unhealthy obsession with greenhouse gas emissions

By Rob Roper

We all want clean hands, especially during this cold and flu season, but we don’t want to be obsessive/compulsive about washing to the point where our skin becomes cracked and bloody. We don’t want to become obese, but neither do we want concern for our weight to develop into an eating disorder such as anorexia. We all want a healthy planet, and we want our government to play an important role in protecting our environment, but what’s happening in the Vermont Legislature today has crossed the line into what amounts to an obsessive, dangerous, and unhealthy disorder.

The Mayo Clinic’s page on anorexia describes the disease as “an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of weight. People with anorexia place a high value on controlling their weight and shape, using extreme efforts that tend to significantly interfere with their lives. … No matter how much weight is lost, the person continues to fear weight gain. Anorexia isn’t really about food. It’s an extremely unhealthy and sometimes life-threatening way to try to cope with emotional problems. When you have anorexia, you often equate thinness with self-worth. Anorexia … can take over your life.”

Rob Roper is the president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Now re-read that paragraph and replace the words “anorexia” with “climate anxiety,” “weight” with “greenhouse gas emissions,” and “food/thinness” with “climate change.”

This sounds like a lot of our legislators as well as many of the activists parading through the committee rooms testifying on environmental policy. Climate change — specifically greenhouse gas reduction — has taken over the life of the State House.

Vermont is already spending over $200 million a year on programs aimed at greenhouse gas reduction (weatherization, renewable energy subsidies, electric vehicle subsidies and infrastructure, other clean transportation initiatives, etc.). This is twice what we spend to pave our roads ($104 million), five and a half times what we spend on clean water ($35 million), and eight times what we spend to support higher education ($25 million). Despite this, a majority of legislators want Vermont to join the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI), a regional carbon tax on gas and diesel that would cost Vermont drivers up to another $90 million a year. This isn’t a healthy balance.

Extreme efforts that interfere with our lives? One hundred five house members just voted for the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA), which mandates that Vermont shed greenhouse gas emissions 50% below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80% by 2050. The law would subvert the democratic process of lawmaking via elected representatives and empower bureaucrats at the Agency of Natural Resources to make and enforce whatever rules are necessary to meet the mandates, regardless of their impact other areas of our lives and economy. What rules? We don’t know.

The Global Warming Solutions Act is another case of having to pass the law to find out what’s in it. But some possibilities include banning ATVs and snow machines, banning backyard barbecues, wood stoves and fireplaces, banning rider mowers and gas powered leaf and snow-blowers. They could prohibit you from cutting trees on your own property or mandate that you retrofit your home to new environmental standards before you’re allowed sell it — whatever it takes to shed those CO2 numbers. How much would this cost? They don’t know that either and they don’t care. But it will be an astounding number.

No matter how much, it’s never enough. As Tom Evslin recently pointed out in his excellent analysis, Vermont Is Already Carbon Neutral, “Vermont’s forests may already be taking more greenhouse gasses (GHGs) out of the atmosphere than all our cars, trucks, furnaces, generators, cows, etc. are emitting.” Vermont is doing its part. We are at a healthy weight. But when these folks look in the mirror, all they see is fat.

Self-Worth? It’s obvious that the people driving this effort have cast themselves in the role of heroes saving the planet. Their sense of self and self-esteem is wrapped up in this one issue. They don’t care about anything else, such as their constituents’ ability to afford gasoline and heating fuel, or the state’s economic stagnation, or the unaffordability or availability of housing. Rep. Bob Hooper (D-Burlington) said on the floor of the house in explaining his support for the Global Warming Solutions Act that his constituents were “afterthoughts” in the climate change debate. That’s not a healthy or normal attitude regarding people whose interests you’re supposed to represent.

Our state government has many issues it needs to address: a $4.5 billion public pension liability, an education funding system that is out of control, a demographic crisis driven in large part by high cost of living, just to name a few. Yet, when she became speaker of the House, Mitzi Johnson (D-Grand Isle) said, “I’m asking every committee in the House to work on some piece of legislation within your jurisdiction that lessens Vermont’s dependence on fossil fuels, reduces our carbon footprint.” That’s not a healthy balance, that’s an unhealthy obsession. It’s time for an intervention.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. He lives in Stowe.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

19 thoughts on “Roper: The Legislature’s unhealthy obsession with greenhouse gas emissions

  1. Vermont CO2eq Increased Despite Huge RE Investments for 23 years

    Vermonters and out-of-state entities have spent at least $5.2 billion trying to reduce CO2eq emissions from 1990 – 2015, about 5.2/25 = $210 million per year, including Efficiency Vermont.

    That total includes federal and state grants, various subsidies, reduced tax collections due to rapid depreciation write offs, and investments by private and government entities. The money was spent on insulation and sealing, new heating systems, and renewable energy programs.

    However, it appears Vermont’s CO2eq reduction efforts have been unsuccessful so far. For at least a decade, I have been advocating:

    – Net-zero-energy and energy-surplus housing and other buildings and
    – Gas-guzzler taxes to get higher mileage vehicles off the road.

    Those two sectors contribute about 70% of Vermont’s CO2eq. See table 10

  2. They have an obsession with CO2, but the programs they come up with WILL NOT REDUCE the quantities of CO2 legislators are fantasizing about.


    The CEP has a goal to install about 35,000 air source heat pumps, ASHPs, by 2025. ASHPs installed were:

    2016, 4118
    2017, 4161
    2018, 2786

    The 2018 decrease is likely due to ASHP owners, in energy-hog houses, becoming aware they would have average energy cost savings of about $200/y, but if other costs are added (amortizing, service calls, etc.), they would have an annual loss. See URL.

    The CEP goals regarding building space heat and domestic hot water, DHW, are:

    63% from renewable electricity (wind, solar, hydro, biomass, etc.)
    34% from wood burning (cordwood/pellet) and bio liquids.
    3% from fossil fuels burning.

    The CADMUS survey of 77 ASHPs, at 65 sites, showed ASHPs, in energy-hog houses, would have about 28% of space heat from ASHPs and 72% space heat and DHW from traditional systems. After subtracting DHW energy, the space heat percentages would be 32% ASHP, 68% traditional. See URL.

    CEP 63% Goal Using ASHPs is Unattainable: Vermont has about 265,000 households, of which:

    About 97,000 households use cordwood/pellets for a part or all of space heat.
    About 65,000 households use cordwood/pellets as primary fuel for space heat.
    About 190,000 households use No. 2 fuel oil, propane or natural gas as primary fuel for space heat.
    About 10,000 households use electricity as primary energy for space heat.

    At present, about 88% of Vermont’s free-standing houses are unsuitable for 100% space heat from ASHPs. See table 3.

    About 100,000 to 125,000 of Vermont’s free-standing houses would need major energy retrofits, at a cost of about $30,000 per house ($3.0 to 3.75 billion), to reduce their space heat to less than 30,000 Btu/h, at 65F indoor and -10F outdoor, to make them economically suitable for 100% space heat from ASHPs.

    After major retrofit, each house would need ASHP capacity of at least 30,000 Btu/h, at -10F, or about 65,000 Btu/h at 47F, at a cost of about $20,000 ($2.0 to $2.5 billion), for 100% space heat from ASHPs.

    Typical space heat demands of 2000-ft2, free-standing Vermont houses are shown in table 3.
    Buildings also require DHW, space cooling, and electricity.

    The Passivhaus standard, conceived in 1988, is the gold standard regarding space heat. All other houses are much worse.

    Passivhaus-type housing used to be difficult to build, but lighting, appliances, heating, sealing, insulation, windows, doors, etc., have advanced to make it much easier during the last 15 years.

    • Weatherizing Housing Units Reduces Minimal CO2 at High Cost

      In 2017, about 2012 housing units were weatherized, for about $20 million, about $10,000/unit. That reduced CO2 by about 6 million lb, or 2716 Mt, or $7,271/Mt. See URL, page 31

      Because these units had a space heat reduction averaging 35%, does not mean they are out of energy-hog territory, i.e., they likely would still be unsuitable for 100% space heat from ASHPs. See table 3.

      The rate of weatherizing is far too slow, and not “deep” enough, for the CEP 63% goal of space heating of all buildings using only ASHPs, powered by expensive (in-state?) renewable electricity.

      New Approach is Needed: It would be unwise to throw more money into this blackhole.
      A new approach, likely not involving government and Efficiency Vermont, must be found.

      A major move towards Passivhaus level is required.
      Entire neighborhoods, with old houses, would need to be leveled for replacement with modern Passivhaus buildings.
      A new statewide, enforced, building code is required. See URL.


        Go to any Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, etc., parking lot and you see at least 60% 4WD and AWD SUVs, crossovers and pick-up trucks.

        People own these vehicles for many reasons, especially to drive on snowy, icy, hilly, pothole, muddy, rutted roads during cold winters.
        Pure EVs would lose up to 40% of their already-limited range during these adverse conditions.
        A full-battery, 200-mile range, could become a mere 120 miles.

        At current marketing/production rates, it would take at least 5 more years before a variety of electric light duty vehicles (small, medium and large) would be marketed to suit the requirements of NE drivers.

        NOTE: Tesla will start delivery of its all-wheel-drive Model Y, a small SUV, same chassis as the Model 3. The long-range version, 315 miles, required in Vermont, etc., would cost $52,990, plus destination & docs $1200, sales tax $3180, installed wall-mounted charger $1,500, a total of about $58,780. If you order right now, you will get your Model Y in about 1 year.

        The cost is totally out of reach for about 90% of households in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, etc.

        Why do career-legislators/career-bureaucrats not understand this?
        Why do they keep pestering us with their fantasy goals?

        The people who voted them into office do not have the money for those fantasy goals, grabbed out of a hat by cabals of self-seeking career-legislators/career-bureaucrats, who:

        – Usually have near-zero technical education and experience in energy systems design and analysis.
        – Hype EVs to the voters, despite their known performance shortcomings and high costs.
        – Advocate giving more state subsidies to mostly higher-income households to get them to buy EVs.
        – Continuously harangue/fear-monger voters to buy EVs, to “save the world/fight climate change”.

        Lifetime CO2 Comparison of Prius and Leaf

        It is important to compare the lifetime energy consumption and CO2 of similar-size vehicles that are highly efficient. Any other comparison, such as to an average gasoline vehicle (as is typically done for hyping purposes) would not be apples to apples

        EPA Ratings

        Standard Prius is rated at 54 mpg city, 50 highway, 52 combined.
        Prius L Eco, with less weight and tires with a lower rolling resistance, is rated at 58/53/56
        Prius AWD-e is rated at 52/48/50
        EPA tests are performed by professionals in a laboratory, i.e., not real-world, road/climate conditions. See Appendix.

        Tesla Model Y and 3 More Efficient than Nissan Leaf

        Leaf S Plus consumes (33.7 kWh/gal-eq) (112 mile/gal-eq) = 0.3009 mile/kWh, wall meter basis.
        Leaf S Plus consumes 57/226 = 0.2522 kWh/mile, vehicle meter basis.
        Tesla EVs use about 7.5% less kWh/mile than Nissan EVs.
        The battery “rating” kWh is greater than the “working” kWh, due to restrictions regarding excessive charging and discharging. See table 6 and Appendix.

  3. Hey you all, all this histeroior about green house gases when one very real option is staring the legislature right between the eyes, but alas, it was trashed before it saw the light of day. How about a pipe line to bring clean burning natural gas to Vermont. What’s so sad is a relatively cheap, clean burning fuel has been black balled by ignorant, well meaning folks. Why?????

  4. The insanity of this agenda aside, we should talk about the consequences if its enacted. For example, one could imagine homes that can’t be modified enough to sell burning down, and people who can’t afford an electric vehicle to drive to work finding a way to stay home and collect welfare — all of which would happen after there was a mad rush to leave this state before the regulations go into effect which would also depress home values below what they are now.

  5. My response to Sen. Pearson minus intro niceties: To begin with, the premise for this action is false. I’ve done extensive research over many years on the subject of man-made global warming, reading both the mainstream studies/data/reports claiming there is a climate crisis and those that dispute that conclusion. You know as well as I that the proposed reduction in CO2 emissions will have virtually no impact on global climate, nor will it make any difference to climate (or weather) within Vermont. The only sure impact will be an increased cost of living for all Vermonters – regardless of schemes to give rebates back to selected people. Our small businesses will suffer as well, becoming less competitive. GWSA will discourage new businesses from starting or moving to Vermont, continuing the decline of good paying jobs in the private sector.

    And as for the particulars, while a Climate Council would come up with a plan (who are these government officials and citizen “experts”, and how are they chosen?), the Agency of Natural Resources would be “empowered” to create and implement new rules for achieving the plan – which removes any further input from the reach of the public and under the control of an unelected bureaucracy.

    Furthermore, the provision that citizens or special interest groups may sue the State for not implementing the mandates quickly enough could be very costly to Vermont tax payers, not to mention the inevitable increase in government spending to implement whatever rules/programs the Agency of Natural Resources comes up with. Seems to me the GWSA would be an uncontrolled money pit, hitting Vermonters with higher taxes on top of the higher cost of everything else such mandates will cause – housing, heating/cooling, gasoline, to name a few. If the Legislature tried to come up with a way to drive more people out of the State and scare off new residents, GWSA is a brilliant plan.

    I must conclude that proponents of GWSA have either not done their homework thoroughly on the subject of climate change, past the propaganda, or it’s another example of mandatory virtue signaling along party lines. I can understand the pressures that come to bear on legislators in this regard. It would take courage to think and act independently. What I can’t understand is the failure to recognize the abdication of our representative power to an Agency in the Executive branch and the virtual disenfranchisement of Vermont voters. The GWSA is a rotten proposal on many levels, and I pray you will have the courage to vote NO.

    • Rachel, thank you for doing the investigative work. It is amazing to me how philosophy can top science.

    • A study by German scientists find electric vehicles are responsible over the ten year expected battery life of adding 11% to 28% more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than their Diesel counterparts when energy requirements including battery production are considered. And they’re subsidized, too. AGW is a fanatic religion, one that demonizes non-believers who reject the dogma. Joe Biden put it succinctly at last year’s Iowa state fair: “We choose truth over facts” – referring, of course, to doctrinal truths, not veridical truths, e.g. belief in the geocentric universe, like AGW, was not subject to facts or debate. Note that the AGW fanatics, rather than seize the opportunity to defend their supposition and defeat their critics, refuse to subject their beliefs to debate – leading me to believe they know as well as we that the dogma is unfounded and unprovable.

  6. I wrote a short note to all Chittenden Senators to vote NO on GWSA. I got a response from Sen. Pearson which indicates he doesn’t understand this Act fully in terms of forfeiting our representative process for a unelected bureaucratic one :
    Thanks for your note. I am curious why you believe the proposal will have a negative impact on Vermont and especially why you feel the voice of our people will be shut out. The proposal calls for a panel of state and citizen experts to come up with a plan to reduce emissions. But they have no authority to enact this plan. That power remains with the governor and the legislature, just as it does today. As with any policy or budget decision made in Montpelier, the public has every opportunity to engage and shape the direction.
    It’s clear you feel strongly about this so I would appreciate you helping me understand your concerns better if you have the time to explain.

    Christopher Pearson
    State Senator

    • “The proposal calls for a panel of state and citizen experts to come up with a plan to reduce emissions” Therein lies the crux of the problem. In formal logic, the primary premise is accepted as true and the argument devolves from that premise. In debate, however, the primary premise is subject to attack, to analysis and disproof. The first consideration is not how to reduce emissions; the first consideration should be whether there is any benefit in further reducing emissions The next consideration is a cost/benefit analysis of reducing emissions IF (and only if) it’s determined that such benefit exists; in other words, the practicality of reducing emissions if necessary – e.g. would you consider it practical or rational to deprive millions of acres of farmland of adequate water to save an insignificant subspecies of fish? Of course not! You’d have to be insane to do that.

  7. We have citizens and business leaving in droves, unfunded pension that can’t be met, failing infrastructure,
    overtly expensive under performing education system, punitive tax system on the middle class and poor, bursting at teh britches bloated government that also underperforms for the money it receives… this is why the no idea AGENDA driven left sticks to leftist idealism of fighting unseen problems instead of ones they have no clue how to fix…

  8. How many times does one have to remind Vermonters and the folks in Montpelier that if the state went to zero emissions tomorrow, it would have absolutely no impact on climate change. Instead of chasing our tails, let’s focus on the real issues for a change.

    • How long does it take for people to realize that the representatives in Oz don’t care what any of us think? It’s a waste of time trying to understand or reason with them. They are progressives. It’s like a disease that apparently has no cure other than cutting it out of the host, (the state government). We can whine, call them, email them, bitch, moan and scream but it falls on deaf ears. However, if there is money involved or a lobbyist with cash they are all ears. The solution for the health of the state, the government, the environment and for the benefit of the people who have endured all of the years of madness taxes and theft of freedom and happiness is to vote these progressive/liberal carpetbaggers out of office!!!!

      • What a perfect understanding of the “progressive” mindset.

        I think this is “good”, therefore I will demand it.

        I think this is “bad”, so I will outlaw it

        All starts and ends with the “Big I” “You” don’t understand!

  9. Rob, this is an excellent commentary about the insanity that rules our State House! Thank you for presenting a well thought out argument and FACTS that people can understand and hopefully present to their representatives – especially those Reps who are determined to plow this legislation through against logical counter arguments.
    Thank you for all your well written articles!

  10. Rob, you are absolutely right on in this analysis and others you have produced. As I have said many times, the Universal Socialists that rule the state of Vermont only care about the philosophy of the thing and do not care one whit about any negative consequences to Vermont’s citizenry. They either assume that all the negative consequences will somehow be mitigated as they arise or, more probably, they simply do not care – again it’s the philosophy.
    In no instance that I am aware of, has any legislation on the impact of climate change legislation and so many other socialist engineering bills, have the proponents bothered to do a substantive fiscal and social analysis of the overall affects of such legislation. It is simply not important to them.
    I am a Vermonter that moved delightfully to New Hampshire. Sadly, many, many others that would love to, simply, for so many reasons, cannot. I feel so sad that My home state has come to this.

    • Good point Gary, about citizens being stuck in VT as it sinks in despair. If the state requires a house be brought up to an undefined CO2 reduction level before it can be sold, then most Vermonters would not be able to comply, or the house would be over priced for the market. The socialist don’t care about affordability because in their world everyone shares the load equally, except for the oligarch class.

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