McClaughry: The Perfect Little Climate Conscious State

By John McClaughry

A year ago, Gov. Phil Scott created a Climate Action Commission in response to clamor generated by the state’s environmental organizations determined to make Vermonters take bold action to defeat the Menace of Climate Change, which they insist “is a fundamental threat to Vermont.”

The governor tasked the commission with delivering “an action plan aimed at reaching the state’s renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction goals while driving economic growth, setting Vermonters on a path to affordability, and ensuring effective energy transition options exist for all Vermonters.”

John McClaughry

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

That greenhouse gas reduction goal, mandated by Act 168 of 2006, is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 50 percent of their 1990 levels by 2028. In 2015, Vermont’s emissions had risen to 16 percent above 1990 levels, not 50 percent below. Driving down CO2 emissions in the futile hope of defeating climate change has become an enviro obsession.

The report released July 30 is a sweeping and well written 85-page compendium of every conceivable step needed to make Vermont the Perfect Little Climate Conscious State. It includes and advocates practically every proposal urged on Vermonters by the environmental phalanx since 1970, plus a number of new enthusiasms sparked by the debatable belief that human carbon dioxide emissions are driving the planet toward heat death.

First, the report extols the merits of “smart growth principles.” This is the “everything in its proper place” notion that underlay Act 250’s proposed State Land Use Plan in 1970, and Gov. Kunin’s ominous “new planning era” of 1987 (Act 200), where anything of consequence occurs only in conformity with a government plan “uniform in standards, specific in requirements, and tough on delinquents.”

To attain this eternal goal, the government needs to take control or ownership of lots more Vermont land that otherwise would be irresponsibly used by selfish, shortsighted landowners oblivious to the principles of smart growth.

The report touts the merits and opportunities presented by a “New Climate Economy,” which a cynic might define as “lots of people making money from the government forcing lots of other people to pay.”

Reducing CO2 emissions requires transformation of the transportation sector that produces 43 percent of them. That means programs to support walking and biking, plus getting people to choose electric vehicles instead of gasoline or diesel powered vehicles. The report strongly supports a network of fast-charging stations for EVs, electric transit and school buses, and even commuter rail “when it becomes viable” (i.e., when unicorns fly).

It doesn’t mention the awkward fact that EVs pay no fuel tax or registration surcharge to support the highway system, leaving that to the gas and diesel powered vehicles the report wants to do away with. Nor does the report explain where the additional gigawatt hours of renewable electricity will come from, to keep all the subsidized EVs on the road.

The report urges doubling of low income home weatherization programs to reduce fuel consumption, claiming that it will save homeowners lots of money over the long run. So why not capitalize the projected fuel savings to pay for the upfront weatherization? There are contractors in Vermont now that do just that for businesses, but the state is committed to sending the home weatherization bill to ratepayers and taxpayers, and letting the homeowners pocket all of the savings.

Looming in the shadows is the One Big Idea for Fighting Climate Change that will drive down CO2 emissions and pay all the costs of adopting the 53 recommendations. That idea is the carbon tax.

Mindful that Gov. Scott is dead set against every form of carbon taxes, “fees,” “caps” and “pricing,” the report manages only to say that driving down CO2 emissions “will require hard choices. We can reform and equalize our tax system to induce behavior change, we can mandate change through statutory or regulatory action, we can let the market efficiently allocate prices through a system like cap and invest or carbon pricing, or we can accept that we will not meet our goals through voluntary action in the current market where the price of carbon is not properly accounted for in the costs of our goods and services.”

The commission then warns: “Unless there is significant progress in greenhouse gas emission reductions, Vermont should institute additional, wide scale measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

What you won’t find in the report is a summary of all the costs of the many programs, incentives and subsidies, including the salaries of what must be thousands of bureaucrats and contractors employed in identifying, measuring, recording, advising, regulating, permitting, subsidizing, policing, and so on to make sure that everybody gets with the “New Climate Economy.”

And you won’t find a trace of the traditional Vermont belief that free people, secure in their property, acting within the law to pursue their dreams, will best contribute to a free and prosperous tomorrow for their children. The urgent need to defeat climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions — no matter how utterly undetectable the results — is now in the driver’s seat.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Images courtesy of town of Swanton/Christine Lang and John McClaughry

9 thoughts on “McClaughry: The Perfect Little Climate Conscious State

  1. Behind all the rhetoric of the RE wishlist has to be carbon taxes of several hundred million dollars per year, maybe as much as one billion dollars per year from now until doomsday, which is only 20 years way, according to some RE folks.

    The Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan, CEP, goal aims to “transform” the Vermont economy. It would require investments of about $33.3 billion, about $1 billion per year for 33 years, during the 2017 – 2050 period, per Vermont Energy Action Network 2015 Annual Report. The CEP could not be implemented without a very high carbon tax and other taxes, surcharges and fees of at least $970 million per year for 33 years.

    Carbon Tax Impact On A Typical Vermont Family, as reported on VTDigger:

    – The carbon tax would impose a $10 per ton tax of carbon emitted in 2017, increasing to $100 per ton in 2027.
    – The carbon tax would generate about $100 million in state revenue in 2019 and about $520 million in 2027.
    – The carbon tax would be added to the fuel prices at gas stations and fuel oil/propane dealers. Drivers should expect a tax increase of 9-cent per gallon of gasoline in 2017, increasing to about 89 cents in 2027.
    – Homeowners, schools, hospitals, businesses, etc., should expect a tax increase of 58-cent tax per gallon of propane and $1.02 per gallon of heating oil and diesel fuel in 2027.
    – A typical household (two wage earners, two cars, in a free-standing house) would pay additional taxes in 2027 of about:
    – Some of the carbon tax extortion would be at the pump, some when the monthly fuel bills arrive, and some as higher prices of OTHER goods and services.

    Driving = $0.89/gal x 2 x 12000 miles/y x 1/(30 miles/gal) = $712/y
    Heating = $1.02/gal x 800 gal/y = $816/y
    Total carbon tax in 2027 = $1528/y
    Sales tax reduction 5/6 x 1400 = $233/y
    Net tax increase = $1295/y

    – The hypocritical sop of reducing the sales tax from 6 to 5 percent would save that household about $233 in sales taxes, for a net loss of $1295 in 2027. That means such households, the backbone of the Vermont economy, would have about $1300/y less to make ends meet.
    – Many of these households have had stagnant or declining, spendable real incomes (after taxes, fees, surcharges; other recurring expenses, etc.), plus dealing with a near-zero, real-growth Vermont economy, since 2000.
    – With less real income, and higher real prices for goods and services, they also would have to make their own energy efficiency improvements.

  2. John,

    That is an excellent summary of the RE utopian dream summary, by the Climate Action Commission.

    You were wondering about the electricity to be generated to replace gasoline.

    Here are the numbers

    RE proponents want to “electrify” the transportation sector. That means internal combustion engines using fossil fuels would be replaced with electric vehicles. For this article, it is assumed only EVs will be used to replace IC vehicles that currently are using gasoline. Plug-in hybrids and other vehicles could not be used, unless they use renewable biofuels.

    NOTE: It would be a challenge to produce large quantities of biofuels.
    For example, gasohol (E10) is a blend of 90% gasoline and 10% ethanol.
    It takes about 30 million acres of corn cropping to produce that 10% of the US gasohol supply.
    It would take about 450 million acres of corn cropping to have all gasoline vehicles use 100% ethanol, because the ethanol Btu/gallon is about 2/3 of the gasoline Btu/gallon.
    The US has a total agricultural area of about 300 million acres.
    RE proponents say much more efficient ways of producing biofuels will be found.
    However, it likely would take decades for them to be in mass production.

    VT Nighttime Demand Increase

    0.302 VT consumption, billion gallons
    23.571 Lb CO2/gal, includes upstream
    3.227 CO2, million metric ton
    24.7 NE average mileage, mpg
    7.455 NE travel, billion miles
    0.350 Vehicle meter, kWh/mile
    0.394 House meter, kWh/mile
    0.423 Fed to grid, kWh/mile
    0.436 Self-use adjusted, kWh/mile
    3.25 GENERATION, billion kWh/y
    31.54 NE Nuclear in 2017, billion kWh

    • Addition:
      If the nighttime charging of EVs is evenly distributed from 10 pm to 6 am, the demand increase is 1113 MW.
      If the charging of EVs is evenly distributed during day, the demand increase is 371 MW.

  3. If everyone moved out of Vermont and nothing took place here for the next 100 years, the change/effect on climate change wouldn’t even be measurable. Why do these enviro-wackos want to harm working Vermonters and the elderly? I guess it must make them feel smart and morally superior.

    • Well, the rate that native VT’rs are moving out right now may take care of it. We’ve successfully removed industry, turning our beautiful mountains into wind farms and land covered with solar panels. The tourist industry will go away as no-one wants to come up here to see that. Looks like a win-win for the enviro-snowflakes. They’ll windup being the only ones left to pay the taxes, while the good people will have pictures of how VT used to be. Does Venezuela ring a bell?

  4. Driving down CO2 emissions, what a joke and our Liberal Leaders in Montpelier ( P.Scott )
    included with a passing initiative on this ……. VT won’t amount to a hill of beans another
    feel-good policy that’s costing Tax Payers !!

    Let just take Automobiles, Vermont’s current registered vehicles are around 615K wow
    sounds like a lot …… but the West coast Liberals in CA with an outstanding 30M, yes million
    used year round …..choking the life out of the rest of the US !!

    Maybe California should set by example, try walking, biking or just stay home and enjoy the
    sun ( smog ) …….. Hipocrits and our fools want to follow !!

  5. While all us Natives will be “coerced” into less energy consumption, the plan also neglects to address the millions of trucks and tourist vehicles crisscrossing our borders daily. And what of the second homes that require myriad of energy to heat, cool, hot water, lights, entertainment centers and security alarms? Another exercise in futility until the sun flares diminish or the magnetic fields realign.

  6. Vermont’s BOLD action to reduce climate change is much ado about NOTHING. Wind mills and solar farms are a joke which do nothing more than raise electrics rates for the non believers.

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