McClaughry: Scott’s climate commission likely won’t produce more than stirring exhortations

By John McClaughry

Gov. Phil Scott has created a Vermont Climate Action Commission, in support of his commitment that Vermont will shoulder its share of the U.S. obligation under the Paris climate agreement. This is the Obama agreement which, to the horror of the climate action boosters, President Trump excused us.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

It’s worth tracing the history of climate action inventions back to 2002. In that year Gov. Dean, planning his run for President, went to Quebec to endorse an enviro-produced climate action plan for the northeastern states and provinces, chock full of scary predictions about the dire consequences of inaction.

The Dean-endorsed plan committed the states and provinces to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to 75% below 1990 levels. Each state would achieve this by forbidding their utilities from buying fossil fuel-produced electricity, requiring or subsidizing  “renewable energy sources”, driving down industrial energy use by enforcing “cap and trade” emission limits, and cracking down, through regulation and/or taxes, on people buying SUVs and pickup trucks. (This is only a sampler.)

In 2005 Gov. Douglas obliged the enviros by creating a six-member Governor’s Commission on Climate Change, chaired by a prominent solar farm developer.  Its 2007 report declared that Vermont is at “grave risk,” and that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is “the major challenge facing Vermonters in years to come.”

It proposed the now-familiar menu of penalty taxes (“feebates”) on low miles-per-gallon cars, vans and trucks, land use controls to funnel growth into state-designated high-density population centers, a sales tax on motor fuel (not to repair deteriorating roads and bridges, but to discourage internal combustion transportation), a taxpayer-financed carbon offset fee for state government activities, mandated purchase of renewable electricity from wind turbines and solar farms, and a plan to indoctrinate public school children with Green theology. All this would be carried out by a climate super-government called the Vermont Climate Collaborative.

Lest anyone question these imperatives, the report opened with the profoundly anti-scientific statement that “the time for debate over the realities of global climate change is over”.

Meanwhile, Gov. Douglas signed Act 168, which set goals for reducing CO2 emissions to 25% below 1990 levels by 2012, and 50% below by 2050.

Peter Shumlin returned to lead the Senate in 2007, and became the principal sponsor of S.350, ardently promoted by VPIRG, “to make global warming the top priority of everything we do, not only in government but in our own personal and private lives.” Any disagreement, he smugly said, was “simply irresponsible”.

The Shumlin-VPIRG bill proposed a climate super-government, a state CO2 emissions cap-and-trade program, and a bewildering array of task forces and working groups to produce a host of reports advocating new regulations, controls, mandates, plans, rules, standards, taxes and subsidies.

Elected Governor in 2010, Shumlin created a “Climate Cabinet,” pumped up the subsidy-distributing Clean Energy Development Fund, signed a Renewable Portfolio Standard bill to force utilities to buy wind, solar and hydro power, and – curiously – led the battle to shut down Vermont’s only carbon dioxide emission-free power plant, Vermont Yankee.

In 2014 VPIRG and its allies launched their push for a carbon tax, promising  to suck in $500 million tax dollars in its tenth year, skim off $50 million to benefit their friends and donors, and (not believably) return the remaining $450 million to government-favored recipients.

In his 2016 campaign for governor, Lt. Gov. Scott explicitly rejected industrial wind and repeatedly said he would veto a carbon tax. In July, however, he joined in the lamentation over Trump’s withdrawal from the Obama Paris agreement, He announced that he bought into the unlegislated Shumlin decree that Vermont must be made to get 90% of its energy from renewable sources by 2050, and also Shumlin’s unlegislated adjustment of Vermont’s statutory CO2 emission reduction goals.

Now we have Climate Action 4.0. Four of the new Scott commission’s 21 members work for Scott, including the appointed chair, and none of the leading climate subsidy warriors are on the member list. Scott directed the commission to fully accept his principles of spurring economic activity, growing Vermont businesses, and putting Vermonters on a path to affordability. Scott’s order also did away with Shumlin’s Climate Cabinet.

Scott has rejected fossil fuel divestment and supports affordable Canadian hydropower. He prevented an increase in Efficiency Vermont surcharges on ratepayers’ monthly bills. Coupled with his rejection of a carbon tax and its fallback euphemism “carbon pricing,” it looks like the most Scott will accept from his commission might be tax credits and sales tax exemptions for people who buy pricey electric and hybrid vehicles and some energy efficiency products.

Given the restrictions of Scott’s anti-carbon tax, pro-economic growth and pro-affordability positions, a cynic might conclude that his creation of a likely unmanageable 21-member commission may excite the climate change lobby, but it won’t produce much more than stirring exhortations. Let’s hope so.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

4 thoughts on “McClaughry: Scott’s climate commission likely won’t produce more than stirring exhortations

  1. John,

    Most people do not know a recently built, average Electric Vehicle emits about as much CO2 as a recently built, average Internal Combustion vehicle, on a lifecycle basis.

    However, if an IC is efficient, say 35 mpg, the IC emits much less CO2 than an average EV, on a lifecycle basis.

    Reducing CO2 is much easier accomplished by means of increasing the mpg of the vehicle population on the roads in Vermont.

    The state government could require all light duty vehicles must have 30 mpg or better; if better a bonus for each mile above when purchased, if less, a gas guzzler tax for each mile below when purchased.

    See table in this URL

  2. John,
    Thank you for writing such a good historic summary of Vermont’s various climate change follies.

    Those follies have the primary goals of:

    – Lining the pockets of pro-RE entities and pro-RE businesses, using the pants-on-fire “we save the world” banner.

    – Getting many pro-RE Democrat legislators re-elected forever, so they would stupidly pass a UNILATERAL carbon tax to further bloat state and local government budgets and drive the Vermont economy into the tank.

    They know Vermont is no more than a flea or a fly on an elephant’s rear, but it is soooooo hard to resist using those federal and state subsidies to set up more and more government programs.

    A UNILATERAL Vermont carbon tax would be a death sentence for Vermont’s already-struggling households and businesses trying to make ends meet in the near-zero-real-growth Vermont economy.

    Vermont should use more clean (much cleaner than wind and solar), low-cost (much less costly than wind and solar), near-CO2-free (much less than wind and solar), STEADY, 24/7/365, hydro power from Canada.

    According to Donald Jessome, CEO and president of TDI New England, 200 MW of the recently approved, 1000 MW, HVDC line, owned by Blackstone, is reserved for Vermont. “Vermont has the option to purchase up to 200 megawatts, but Jessome said he doesn’t expect the state to take advantage of that option.” (while Shumlin was governor, but hopefully that will change while Scott is governor)

    Apparently, Green Mountain Power, et al., prefer to buy much higher-cost wind and solar energy from a variety of local suppliers.

    From GMP’s viewpoint, it is understandable not to go with the 200 MW, because it does very little for GMP’s asset base, on which GMP earns about 9%/y. Instead, GMP prefers to own/lease to ratepayers heat pumps (made in Japan), solar systems (PV panels made in China with dirty coal plants) and Tesla Powerwall 2.0 batteries (made in Nevada), because that adds to GMP’s asset base, and helps GMP collect cash grants, tax credits and subsidies, and have fast write offs, to minimize paying taxes, and increase its net profit. Buying power from other producers, such as H-Q, does none of that. It has nothing to do with saving the world. Follow the money.

  3. What is the point of all this when the writer fails to mention United Nations Agenda 21, soon to be followed by Agenda 2030?

    The sooner that more people realize what is the basis for what is / has been occurring the sooner effective action can be taken to counter it.

    A sensible first step would be to get Rosa Koire’s book, “Behind the Green Mask” which is available in quantity for as little as a mere fifteen bucks. You will not be able to put it down and the motivation behind some of the major players in the Montpelier Theater will become clearer.

    In the meantime, try these sites for some eye openers:

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