Roper: Another carbon tax proposal

By Rob Roper

The carbon tax really is the zombie, body snatcher legislation that will not die. The past couple of months have seen a massive ramping up of pro-carbon tax activities by the VPIRG led coalition, Energy Independent Vermont. These folks have gone into overdrive, stacking public forums with carbon tax advocates and filling local papers with letters and op-eds pressuring Gov. Phil Scott to “be a leader” and pass a carbon tax. All this activity reached a peak on Nov. 8 when a group unveiled what they are calling “the Essex Plan” — another major proposal to tax Vermonters for driving our cars and heating our homes.

Rob Roper is the president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

No particular organization has its name on The Essex Plan, but it does list thirteen authors from across the climate activist spectrum. The group includes David Mears, former Commissioner of Environmental Conservation; Jon Erikson of the Gund Institute; Rick Hausman, a former State Representative; plus several high-profile business owners who, most if not all, appear to by linked to Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR). As such, it is worth noting that VBSR recently hosted a pro-carbon tax informational meeting and has upped its profile in support of passing some sort of carbon tax.

The Essex Plan (the significance of the name is not explained) would ultimately be a $240 million tax on gasoline (32¢/gal), heating oil and diesel fuel (40¢/gal) — though not dyed diesel — and natural gas and propane (24¢/gal). In this respect it is “better” than the VPIRG plan, which topped out at over a half a billion. Fifty percent of this revenue would be used to subsidize Vermont’s electric utilities for the purpose of lowering electric rates, and the other half would be redistributed to low-income and rural Vermonters via a rebate scheme.

The authors state that the electric subsidies under the Essex plan would mean $8 million in savings for a company like IBM and would “slash” the bills of ski areas, which use lots of electricity to run their lifts.

While we support making it cheaper to do business in Vermont, and very much want these businesses to succeed on their own merits, it is not desirable to make it so by forcing taxpayers cut these companies a check. This is what the Essex Plan effectively does. Would you support, for example, any increase in the gas tax if the stated purpose was to subsidize ski resorts or Global Foundries or any other business? If your answer is “no,” then you do not support The Essex Plan.

It is also ironic that the authors tout the Essex Plan as “billion dollar ‘Buy Local’ campaign,” when the businesses they cite as benefiting most are not locally owned. For example, Stowe is owned by Vail, Killington is owned by Utah-based Powdr, Okemo is owned by a Florida based company, Ben & Jerry’s is owned by Unilever and Global Foundries is headquartered in California. In fact, Green Mountain Power, which would receive the bulk of these subsidies directly as it controls roughly 78 percent of Vermont’s power distribution, is owned by the Canadian company Gaz Metro. Again, we like all of these companies and want them to succeed, but on their own and without handouts from the taxpayer.

The Essex Plan is just one carbon tax proposal that will be up in 2018. In the closing weeks of the 2017 legislative session, legislators put forward four different carbon tax bills — H.528, H.531, H.532 and H.533 — which their sponsors said are designed to “start a conversation.” Funny, we thought that conversation was concluded when Gov. Phil Scott trounced Sue Minter on the strength of promising to veto any carbon tax. Nevertheless, here we go again.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

7 thoughts on “Roper: Another carbon tax proposal

  1. I am remembering when we built our home in 1972. The push was for “GOLD MEDALION HOMES” all electric, nothing but clean electric. Building all electric was cheap so we said “ok – Do It. Half way thru construction, the electric guy came by to spec out the house. We were the very first that I had ever heard of – the estimate was DOUBLE the cost of oil heat. All Electric had been heavily promoted as the cheapest best source of home heating.
    WOW! Our builder could provide hot water oil heat for $10% added to the home so we did that. 45 years later we are still saving mega-bucks over the Gold Medallion homes.
    Promises made by idealists are usually a bear trap. It was idealists who demanded that Nuclear be banned from Vermont – one of our greatest energy losses. The New England Grid is hanging on by it’s fingernails. The existing power lines are already stressed to the limit. Wind and solar are rediculously fickle and unreliable. So called massive “electric storage” is decades away – if it ever works. Otherwise Electricity must have absolutely constant supply, for the life of a watt of electricty is about a nano-second, it is not oil, not gasoline, not nuclear, not water power, not wood for home heat.
    As Health care is becomming a gargantuan monopoly under the Burlington Cabal of UVM Hospital, it seems the same dreamers want Green Mountain Power to be the cabal for all power sources.
    What else could we desire than to have these two monopolies decide who wins and who loses !!

  2. As if Act 60-68 was not enough of a highway robbery scam on Vermonters industrial and commercial property wealth–now we follow with this “snake oil” plan to rob everyone again—ENOUGH!

  3. I’m just glad that I am close enough to NY to get my gas and fill all of my kerosene containers when these “chicken little” types pretend to fix the environment by taking the money out of our pockets and using it as political buying power fueling their agendas.

  4. “…it’s easy to oppose everything but not so easy to provide solutions to fundamental problems.”

    What do you see as the “fundamental problem”?
    Is it the abundance of wealth and income of the 603,000 Vermonters? Tax ’em? Government redistribution of wealth? Take from all and give much of it to the corporations?

    Is it “global warming”? Tax ’em! Yes, taxing Vermonters will stop will stop the industrialization of China, India, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Africa, et al.

    A $5.00/gal. gas tax in Austria didn’t seem to slow my friend from driving his Porche 120mph on the autoban. When I asked him how he could afford $130(2007) fill up, he said: “I am rich”.

    Give your head a shake man!

    With an aging population switching to a fixed income and the youth living on substandard wages, there will be further migration out of VT,leaving fewer and fewer who are left to pay for your schemes.

  5. I’m not suggesting I support this plan and I do think it has some issues but….what do you suggest would be an effective tool to stem the inevitable economic impacts of increasing costs of non-renewable fuels and their externalities?

    It seems that you have been opposed to any type of carbon tax yet have not provided any sort of alternative besides the status quo…it’s easy to oppose everything but not so easy to provide solutions to fundamental problems.

    • If a proposal does more harm than good, then opposing it doesn’t require an alternative. Stated differently, the alternative is the free market. You state that the inevitable economic impact is increasing cost (I don’t think anyone can predict that with certainty, but let’s assume you are correct), then when the cost rises high enough, alternatives become economically viable. When the prices rise artificially, there are always unintended consequences that almost always make worse the very stated goals of the policy. And I disagree. It is not easy to oppose the group think in Vermont.

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