By Rob Roper
The House Appropriations Committee heard testimony last week on what is being billed around the Statehouse as “Non-Pricing Approaches to Reducing Carbon Emissions.” “Pricing” is the euphemism for carbon taxes. “Non-Pricing” approaches refers to government programs, such as weatherization, building electric vehicle infrastructure, etc. What we learned is, not surprisingly, non-pricing options require — drumroll, please — pricing! A carbon tax to generate the revenue to pay for these programs.
This testimony follows the off-session study of Vermont’s carbon reduction options, which found that a carbon tax — even one as draconian as the VPIRG 88 cents per gallon on gasoline/ $1.02 per gallon of heating oil — would have practically zero impact on Vermont’s carbon footprint. This is because there are no ready substitutes for vehicle and home heating fuels for people to switch to and Vermonters still have to get to work and stay warm in the winter. They can’t change their behavior even if they wanted to. Moreover, if the promise is to cycle all the tax revenue back to taxpayer through rebates, lower taxes elsewhere, or some other such scheme (a revenue neutral tax), there is not enough pain generated to force a change in behavior.
So, what the climate change activists are now arguing is for programs — subsidies for electric vehicle purchases, building electric vehicle charging stations, more weatherization subsidies, 100 percent renewable energy standards — which the study claims would be more effective in lowering our CO2 output. None of this, mind you, would have any impact on future climate trends. It’s all just ‘cuz.
Nevertheless, testimony from the Regulatory Assistance Project argued for more $600 million in new program funding over the next ten years. And, where will they get that $600 million? Carbon taxes.
“Carbon revenue is required,” said Richard Cowart, director of the Regulatory Assistance Project. “In my opinion we should be using carbon revenues [new carbon taxes] to pay for a carbon reduction program.”
For the past two years the sweetener pitch to Vermonters from the carbon taxers was that it would be revenue neutral. We never really believed that, arguing that with a huge pile of money pouring into Montpelier it wouldn’t take long before the politicians decided that, despite past promises, it would be better if they just kept the cash and spent it themselves. That time, judging by the fluttering, sugar-high-excited reaction of the money committee, appears to be now.