By Guy Page
In France last week, low-income Parisians shouting “aux armes” rioted in the streets against a carbon tax increase on gasoline and diesel fuel. In response, the government postponed it. French protesters say carbon taxes hurt the rural poor most of all.
In Germany, the government is saying “nein” to a national carbon tax because German industry and power generators already pay hefty carbon taxes to the European Union.
In the United Kingdom, Scotland won’t accept an all-UK carbon tax to replace the EU carbon tax that will disappear after the “Brexit” departure from the EU. The descendants of William Wallace demand “Freedom!” to make their own environmental policy.
In Australia, the national carbon tax was repealed in 2014 by popular demand.
In Canada, a national carbon tax will take effect next month. Leaders there see European populist pushback and say hopefully, “it won’t happen here.”
In the deep blue state of Washington last month, voters decisively rejected a statewide carbon tax – for the second time.
But Vermont isn’t like the rest of the world. Because meanwhile, in Vermont:
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger announced support for a carbon tax at a climate action conference in Fairlee Dec. 1. Politically speaking, it was a safe move. Burlington will win big in any plan that punishes rural people who live in older homes heated with oil and drive SUVs because they want to get home safely. Burlingtonians drive shorter distances on safer roads, own newer homes heated with natural gas or renewables, and enjoy more access to public transportation. They also earn more money and are far more economically secure. No wonder Chittenden County lawmakers comprise the core of carbon tax support in the Legislature.
Although taxpaying Vermonters are being coerced to use less fossil fuels, energy conservation is still strictly optional for the energy-intensive marijuana industry. The Times-Argus reported Dec. 3 that the Middlesex planning commission approved an 8,000 sq. ft. “medical” marijuana grow for the Vermont Patients’ Alliance. This one building would use an estimated* 67,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month – enough for 118 average Vermont homes, or about 18 percent of all 663 households in Middlesex. Yet in its approval from the planning commission, this energy hog merely “is encouraged to explore energy-saving opportunities with its utility company and Efficiency Vermont.”
Many of the same legislators supporting a carbon tax also support legalization of commercial pot. The electricity needed to create just one joint of marijuana can produce 18 pints of beer, a study by the National Conference of State Legislatures says. No wonder more than half of the new power demand in Colorado is from the marijuana industry. No wonder the marijuana industry is responsible for seven power blackouts in California, the NCSL study says.
Adding insult to injury, many marijuana grows actually run machines that emit CO2 on purpose. CO2 makes the plants grow. High-powered “grow lights,” and strict heating and cooling requirements contribute to the grow’s huge energy load.
And make no mistake, Vermont electricity is still fossil-fuel intensive. We get much of its electricity from the New England grid, which in turn is heavily dependent on fossil fuels. For example, ISO Express real-time reports show that on Thursday, Dec. 6 at 2:35 pm the grid’s electricity fuel sources were 43 percent natural gas and six percent coal.
“The electricity consumption of greenhouses is staggering compared to residential and business use,” the National Conference of State Legislatures study says.
*According to the NCSL study, a 5,000 sq. ft. indoor grow in Boulder, CO uses 42,000 kilowatt-hours per month. Adjusted for size, an 8,000 sq. ft. grow would use 67,000 kilowatt-hours per month.
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.