Daily Chronicle: Vermont’s war on Internal Combustion Engine fought on many battlefields

By Guy Page

Back in WWII, many folks on the home front thumbtacked a world map to the wall and used pushpins to follow the advancing American forces. In the same spirit of trying to understand what the heck is going on, here’s a rundown on Vermont’s War on the internal combustion engine.

Transportation accounts for more than half of Vermont’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change activists in government and the renewable power industry and lobby are on a war footing. Here are some of the battlefields.

Bike lanes coming to Williston Road. Like the Doolittle Raiders bombing Tokyo, climate warriors are taking the fight to the heart of the enemy: stop-and-go commuter traffic on Williston Road. South Burlington City plans to build $2.4 million worth of buffered bike and pedestrian lanes, crossings and signage there by 2022. Vehicle travel lanes will shrink to 11 feet wide, according to Local Motion.  Eventually, a separate pedestrian bridge will cross I-89, WCAX reports.  The idea is to make Williston Road friendlier to bike or walk. If it’s less friendly to single-occupant motorists – meh. A similar project on the Barre-Montpelier Road has met with general approval from motorists and pedestrians alike.

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New rural commuter bus routes. Rural Community Transportation (RTC) on November 4 began a free fare, 14-seat commuter bus route back and forth from Morrisville, Hardwick, Montpelier and smaller towns in between. From Montpelier, bus riders can transfer to buses headed for Chittenden and Caledonia counties. A similar route runs along Rte. 15 from Burlington to Jeffersonville, just 10 miles from Morrisville. Need a car to get anywhere in rural Vermont? Maybe not, someday, if bus routes continued to be seeded and take, uh, root. Yet cultivation is costly: a multi-million dollar federal grant will cover the first three years. Then, the tab will fall on riders, towns, and RTC.

Electric snowmobiles. Pro-renewable lobbyist VPIRG wants snow machine enthusiasts to consider the benefits of the Taiga electric-powered snowmobile.  As reported by the Vermont Daily Chronicle, VPIRG said in a Nov. 12 tweet that “Gas-powered snowmobiles are a blast, but they’re up to 50x more polluting than an average car. Taiga Motors’ flagship electric model reaches speeds of 60mph in under 3 seconds while significantly reducing the noise associated with conventional snowmobiles.” The cheapest Taiga snow machines cost $15,000 (presumably in Canadian dollars), the website for the Montreal-based company says. By comparison, Minnesota-built Polaris gas-powered sleds start at $5400, with the top-of-line at about $15,000.

Car-free urban living. The Taylor Street apartment building/transit center that opened last month in Montpelier is a demo for car-free urban living. Its 30 ultra-low energy apartments (costing $256,000 per unit to build) are built on top of a ground floor train/bus stop (additional estimated cost of $10-12 million) with convenient traffic circle and direct access to the capital city’s expanded bike path. The State House and state office complex are just a block away. In many ways the Taylor Street project is the urban planner’s answer to the question, how can people live and commute comfortably without a car? Most of the $17-19 million of funding came from local, state, and federal sources. How often can that size of payout be repeated?

Transportation & Climate Initiative – AKA the multi-state Stealth Carbon Tax – is in for a tough battle it may not win. Last week Gov. Phil Scott emphatically told the State House press corps that if the TCI is a carbon tax, he opposes it. He said it twice. And it is a carbon tax – the TCI would assess a 5-18 cent/gallon fee on gasoline and on-road diesel dealers, to be recouped from consumers at the pump. The final report is due out next month. Gov. Scott wants to wait to see what other states do with the TCI. Across our long border with New Hampshire, gasoline is now 30 cents cheaper. A TCI would widen the gap. NH Gov. Chris Sununu has already vetoed one carbon tax bill.

Tolls could become a renewable transportation battlefield in the not-too-distant future. In a recent interview with Vermont Business Magazine, Gov. Scott said the thought of tolls replacing the gas tax “excites” him. But it would need to be done at the federal level, he said. Something’s gotta replace the highway-maintaining gas tax, receipts from which decline annually as more Vermonters buy electric cars, commute, walk or bike. Lawmakers have been arm-wrestling for years over either raising the gasoline tax or assessing an equivalent on electric cars, without a clear winner. Another possibility is a highway use tax based on mileage recorded during annual inspections.  “A new tax structure will appear,” Scott told VBM.

Bans on mobile billboards? Former gubernatorial candidate and utility exec Christine Hallquist tweeted indignation earlier this month after seeing a roving “mobile billboard” tooling around Burlington. Ingenious marketers have designed truck-drawn trailers bearing billboards, possibly flouting the state’s 50-year-old billboard law. Unlike buses that carry advertising, these vehicles seem to exist solely to be driven around, promoting their products. Citing climate impact, Hallquist wants them banned.

With the upset over snowmobiles and mobile billboards, it’s understandable that some skeptics on social media suggested that proposed enforcement of current restrictions on demolition derbies are another anti-internal combustion ploy. T’ain’t so. When the Vermont Daily Chronicle ran that idea by a state official his response was “Ridiculous!” His office wants DDs to continue – albeit more safely and by the regs.

The conflict grinds on. The many commuter park-and-rides approved in the Transportation Bill this year are in various stages of design and construction. A feasibility study for a Barre-Montpelier commuter train is due out next month. And the Vermont Legislature has yet to pass S173, the proposed Vermont Global Warming Solutions Act that would put virtually every state agency in carbon-reduction mode. But it’s clear that even without such a declaration, Vermont has gone to war.

Read more of Guy Page’s reports at the Vermont Daily Chronicle.

Image courtesy of Public domain

13 thoughts on “Daily Chronicle: Vermont’s war on Internal Combustion Engine fought on many battlefields

  1. For those of you who have to listen to my rants from time to time the truth finally has come out. You my recall me telling you that this “Vermont Vehicle Inspection Program’ was a wolf in disguise. It was a program put into place so the state would be in a position whereby they could charge a carbon tax based upon the mileage you drove the previous year …….I present you with the Governors following statement:

    Another possibility is a highway use tax based on mileage recorded during annual inspections. “A new tax structure will appear,” Scott told VBM

    So the man who is opposed to a carbon tax is Okay with a added highway use tax. Hmmmm.

    Another play of words upon us foolish people.

  2. Gov. Scott said the thought of tolls replacing the gas tax “excites” him.

    All ya need to know about this RINO leftist.

  3. This state is a lunatic asylum, run by the inmates. It got started in the 1960s, and now look where we are. THIS is “progress?” Only to the clinically insane.

  4. I’m waiting for the Climate Strikers to shut down Thunder Road – all those awful emissions! And noise! And somebody might get hurt! That should really get Phil Scott’s attention.

  5. Want to take the free bus from morrisville to hardwick to Montpelier. and back

    That will take YOUR ENTIRE DAY, Why did you want to go in the first place !?!?!?!

  6. Nobody mentions the most obvious solution after banning cars. Like the peasants of old that the Ruling Elite want us to become again, we can just walk everywhere. And if your destination is too far away, well that’s tough.

    • This succinctly summarizes the ultimate goal, to price the ability to travel freely out of the reach of many. The far reaching effects upon daily existence are more obvious than the control of our lives that would be lost.

      Might could be that enacting these stupid regulations will stir up latent Minutemen and Green Mountain Boys?

  7. The green Nazis of Montpelier are doing more harm to the state than good. They play Vermonters as stupid and subordinate. Reality of the matter is every time these bafoons take up legislation, they accomplish more exodus from the state. Implementing all the described articles will only give another round to home sales within Vermont. They already wage war on business, now they take the fight to the everyday commodity, leaving the average Vermonter with 2 choices, stay and slide down the economic ladder or move and gain prosperity in other states. It’s amazing how Blue states are declining in population and Red ones are increasing. It’s basic economics 101, which most Vermont legislators are not smart enough to comprehend.

  8. Why don’t the just outlaw gas powered vehicles. I’d love to see just how long the liberals stay in office with that.

    • Remember the incrementalism tactic, a little bit here, a little more there. Before we realize it, all will be in place.

  9. Love the horse idea. One question…how to tax for highway wear and tear, bridges. Etc? Maybe by the “hoof-mile”? X cents per pound of horse poop? Let’s not forget we will need lots of government bureucrats to oversee the program. Cant wait to see how they audit this program… and oh yeah, will there be a poop weighing station in every town ….run by State? Whoa!

    • NO NO NO!!!!!! Can’t have poop anywhere near a stream; horses will need to be trained in that aspect; it might find it’s way into the lake or White River, or CT River.

  10. Hey guys, you have overlooked a great carbon neutral option. How about bringing back the good ole horse and buggy? Of course it require adding a new lane to our roads, but that should be no problem.

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