Headliners: Ozone layer healing, ‘progressive’ state rejects carbon tax

By Guy Page

Recent headlines offer both good news and warnings for Vermonters concerned about energy costs and climate.

Earth’s ozone layer is healing

The upper atmosphere of the Northern Hemisphere should be healed by 2030, and the worst spots at the poles will be healed by mid-century, global scientists reported last week, as reported by the Nov. 5 Guardian. In addition to reducing the likelihood of cancer, the healing of the ozone layer should help reduce global warming, UN scientists said.

Verdict: Good news! And we don’t even miss our aerosol deodorant cans.

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Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership, the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare, and Physicians, Families & Friends for a Better Vermont.

Voters in State of Washington reject carbon tax – again

The State of Washington by referendum voted against a carbon tax Tuesday Nov. 6. This news from RTO Insider: “Washington voters solidly defeated a ballot initiative that would have placed a fee on the state’s carbon emissions, with collected revenues used to fund environmental programs. I-1631 went down with 56% voting “no,” despite polls leading up to the election showing about 50% of potential voters favoring the measure and about 36% opposed.” It’s the second time Washington State has turned down a carbon tax. And polls claiming voter support were wrong, wrong, wrong.

Verdict: Good news of solidarity from another “blue” state for Vermont carbon tax critics who question the supposed “popularity” of paying more for gasoline and heating oil.

“New York, New York, what a short-sighted town, the taxes are up and the people are down”

Proposed carbon emission taxes on New York City buildings would jeopardize “rent controlled” units and raise rents across the city, the 11/2 Huffington Post reports. The regs could add to the city’s homeless population of 76,000, already the largest in the nation.

NYC already has a tiny per capita carbon footprint thanks to zero-carbon nuclear power, well-traveled, electrified mass transit, and relatively tiny living spaces. In many ways NYC is already the low-carbon poster child for Vermont’s energy planning. But the city’s climate planners insist it’s not enough. They want to tax rents to pay for major, required building improvements is the way to go – even if it wrecks rent control and puts more people on the street. Note also that NYC doesn’t plan to plow tax proceeds into climate adaptation, like better protection against storm-surges.

Verdict: Bad news — climate taxation will never be satisfied even when all of today’s climate-reduction boxes are checked. When your pro-carbon tax legislator says it will only hurt a little, don’t believe it. The state of Vermont needs a new, market-based paradigm to promote cleaner air and lower emissions.

A new study shows that even when “levelized” for environmental impacts, natural gas is still the most cost-effective power source in Vermont and New England. The University of Texas – Austin study features an interactive map that lets you click on any county in Vermont to find the lowest-cost electricity fuel-source. At present, the map says the best buy is $65 per megawatt-hour for natural gas in Washington County and throughout New England. However, on the Midwestern plains wind power is king, and in parts of sunny southern California, solar power is the cheapest source of electricity.

Verdict: Good news for all parts of the country, which can now better choose what form of electricity generation work best for them.

Vermont now burning ultra-low sulfur heating oil

This winter and from now on, all heating oil sold in Vermont will be an ultra-low sulfur blend. Sulfur is the main ingredient in smog, which even in Vermont can be visible on cold days in valley areas (such as seen by I-89 commuters in Waterbury).

The new fuel blend reduces 97 percent of air-borne emissions, and is sold at no extra cost to consumers. Also, it burns cleaner in furnaces, requiring less servicing. The transition to this cleaner fuel is part of a 2011 law supported by Vermont’s heating oil industry.

Verdict: such awesome good news for the beauty of our state and the health of our lungs that it’s amazing that some of our politicians and media have ignored it. Perhaps because it doesn’t fit their pro-tax, anti-fossil fuels message.

Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.

Image courtesy of Page Communications

4 thoughts on “Headliners: Ozone layer healing, ‘progressive’ state rejects carbon tax

  1. Any tax, including a carbon tax, passing through the hands of government suffers from “the sticky fingers syndrome”, 2 dollars go in, about 1.5 dollars come out.
    The difference stays to feed the growing government bureaucracy.
    The key word missing in this discussion is UNILATERAL
    VT’s government imposing on Vermonters a unilateral carbon tax is like shooting them in the feet.
    If the carbon tax were nationwide, I would support it.
    The carbon tax would:
    – Impose a $10/ton tax of carbon emitted in 2017, increasing to $100/ton in 2027.
    – Generate about $100 million in state revenue in 2019, about $520 million in 2027.
    – Be added to the fuel prices at gas stations and fuel oil/propane dealers.
    Drivers should expect a tax increase of 9 c/gal of gasoline in 2018, increasing to about 89 cents in 2027.
    Homeowners, schools, hospitals, businesses, etc., should expect a tax increase of 58 c/gal of propane and $1.02/gal of heating oil and diesel fuel in 2027.

  2. 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.
    http://eanvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/EAN-2015-Annual-Report-Low-Res-Final.pdf

    Any tax, including a carbon tax, passing through the hands of government suffers from “the sticky fingers syndrome”, 2 dollars go in, about 1.5 dollars come out. The difference stays to feed the growing government bureaucracy.

    The key word missing in most discussions is UNILATERAL. VT’s government imposing on Vermonters a unilateral carbon tax is like shooting them in the feet.

    If the carbon tax were nationwide, I would support it.

    The carbon tax would:

    – Impose a $10/ton tax of carbon emitted in 2017, increasing to $100/ton in 2027.
    – Generate about $100 million in state revenue in 2019, about $520 million in 2027.
    – Be added to the fuel prices at gas stations and fuel oil/propane dealers.
    – Drivers should expect a tax increase of 9 c/gal of gasoline in 2018, increasing to about 89 cents in 2027.
    – Homeowners, schools, hospitals, businesses, etc., should expect a tax increase of 58 c/gal of propane and $1.02/gal 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.

    • Guy,
      Please be aware, the much touted CEP, to which we all are to be in thrall, and which drives the big push for a CARBON TAX, is, in fact, based on two baseless claims about the availability of biomass (tree cutting, etc.) and biofuels (ethanol, biodiesel, etc.).

      The estimated capital cost of the CEP, as estimated by EAN, is at least $33 billion by 2050, or about ONE BILLION DOLLARS PER YEAR, or about 6 to 7 times greater than current annual RE investments in Vermont.
      http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/excessive-predictions-of-future-biomass-and-biofuel-consumption

      According to the people who put together the CEP in 2013 and revised it in 2016, that appears to be not a problem. They claim biofuels will increase from near zero percent in 2010 to about 37% of ALL of Vermont’s primary energy, PE, by 2050. That claim is a baseless fantasy.

      According to the people who put together the CEP, that appears to be not a problem. They claim Vermont cutting down trees and turning them into wood chips and pellets for burning can be increased from the level in 2010 to 2.8 times that level in 2050. That claim is a baseless fantasy.

      These baseless claims are not trivial, because they cover about 54% of all primary energy Vermont is assumed use in 2050. Primary energy is the energy fed to power plants, buildings, vehicles, and industrial and commercial facilities. Almost all future planning regarding the use of primary energy is affected by these claims.

      It would mean, biofuels would not be sufficiently available for transportation and building heating until about two decades later than projected by the CEP.

      It would mean 1) much greater emphasis on increasing the mileage of existing vehicle fleets, 2) a much slower transition from petroleum-based fuels to biofuels, and 3) a more rapid transition from standard IC vehicles to plug-in hybrids and plug-in EVs, if the latter would have 1) much lower prices, 2) much bigger batteries for longer range and 3) 4WD.

      It would mean much greater emphasis on deep retrofitting about 80% of Vermont’s buildings (residential and other) to finally make them suitable for heating/cooling with heat pumps, so that the envisioned energy and cost savings would actually be realized, which currently is only the case for highly insulated and highly sealed buildings. See URL.
      http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/heat-pumps-oversold-by-efficiency-vermont-and-ev-approved

      It would mean, because of biomass harvesting limitations (tree cutting and other biomass growing), biomass would not be sufficiently available for building heating as projected by the CEP. The present biomass supply would need to be used much more efficiently, such as by immediately closing McNeil and Ryegate.

  3. “smog, which even in Vermont can be visible on cold days in valley areas (such as seen by I-89 commuters in Waterbury).”

    Are you sure that that is not smoke from wood stoves and outdoor boilers? It too has a tendency to cling in the valleys on cold nights.

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