By Guy Page
Low energy prices have helped lead the United States to its 101st consecutive month of economic recovery, the third longest in history, Vermont State Economist Tom Kavet on Nov. 30 told a one-day gathering of the Vermont Legislature.
“The continuing recovery in home prices and recent strong equity market performance will bolster household wealth and along with continued low energy prices in 2018, should support robust consumer spending — which represents about 70% of the economy,” Kavet said in a report.
The low energy prices to which Kavet refers are mostly due to “fracked” natural gas and oil. Not all legislators like the low cost of heating oil, natural gas, and gasoline. Some say Vermonters need a carbon tax nudge to get them to buy more renewable energy. For example, in the Dec. 7 Valley News, Bradford Rep. Sarah Copeland-Hanzas backed the “Essex Plan” carbon tax, which (the Valley News says) “envisions adding 4 cents to the cost of a gallon of gas every year for eight years, eventually totaling 32 cents a gallon.
The fee would be 3 cents on a gallon of propane, and 5 cents for diesel or home heating fuel to start, escalating to 24 cents, and 40 cents, respectively over the eight-year ramp-up. The fee would be assessed to wholesalers, who could choose to pass that cost directly on to the consumer.” The Essex Plan would rebate some carbon tax revenue to electricity ratepayers.
Copeland-Hanzas hopes a carbon tax would help move Vermont closer to the goal of 90 percent total renewable energy by 2050. “We are kidding ourselves if we think that anything that we’re doing right now is moving us in that direction,” Ms. Copeland-Hanzas told the Valley News.
She has a point (although probably not in the way she means it): the pro-renewable Legislature has opposed carbon reduction in the past, and is poised to do it again. In 2010 the Vermont Senate voted against Vermont Yankee, Vermont’s largest-ever zero-emitting power plant. Now, some of the same senators who opposed zero-carbon Vermont Yankee are pushing to legalize energy-intensive marijuana cultivation.
Growing five pounds of pot indoors requires the same amount of electricity needed to power 24 Vermont homes for a year. That’s why marijuana cultivation in greater Denver, Colorado accounts for more than half of all new demand for power. Colorado and Pacific Northwest states are struggling to meet emissions reduction goals due to the huge energy demand of legalized marijuana cultivation.
Gov. Phil Scott opposes carbon taxation. His consumer and business-friendly approach to emission reduction stresses energy conservation, reliance on economically-sound policies and technology, better management of electricity delivery, and affordable hydropower contracts.
Some observers believe the renewable power industry is pushing hard for carbon tax revenue because it fears losing federal subsidies, which are scheduled to be phased out.
GMP’s $80 million rate increase explained
Green Mountain Power’s proposed 2018 5 percent rate increase will cost ratepayers $80 million, Vermontbiz.com said Nov. 27. GMP spokesperson Kristen Carlson blames the hike on increased transmission, regional capacity and net metering costs. The following briefly explains these terms:
· “Net metering” refers mostly to how Vermont subsidizes solar power at three to four times the cost of buying power on the open market. Thanks mostly to large-scale solar development (think acres of pasture, not rooftop), the load share of high-cost solar has grown enough to adversely impact rates. Solar capacity totaled 107 MW in 2015 and has continued to grow since then. New state policies partially restricting the sale of renewable carbon credits out-of-state is expected to impact ratepayers.
· “Regional capacity” refers to paying the dwindling number of New England power plants (mostly natural gas-fired) to produce power on demand, as other plants (coal, oil, nuclear) retire from service. As New England’s share of intermittent renewable power grows, on-demand “backup” power becomes increasingly necessary and therefore valuable.
· “Transmission” refers in part to the cost of building and maintaining the 9,000 miles of New England’s high-voltage transmission power lines. ISO-New England budgeted $2.1 billion for 2017, an all-time high. Vermont will pay about $43 million more in regional transmission costs in 2018, according to GMP rate filing documents.
Planned Parenthood funding, electronic roll call bills introduced
Bills released for introduction into Legislature:
· Electronic roll-call for Vermont House by 2019 — H.545, Rep. Jim Harrison
· No helmets required to operate three-wheeled “autocycles” — S.151, Sen. Joe Benning
· New state fund for Meals On Wheels — H.544, Rep. Mike Mrowicki
· Tax on erectile dysfunction products provides revenue for new state fund to offset any federal budget cuts to Planned Parenthood — H.543, Rep. Mike Mrowicki
Resolution to honor community activist who died per Act 39
A resolution to honor the life — and, apparently, the manner of death — of longtime civil rights, environmental and low-income activist Paij Wadley-Bailey will be introduced into the Vermont House of Representatives, sponsor Brian Cina (Burlington) said Thursday, Nov. 30. The resolution praises Ms. Wadley-Bailey’s long lifetime of civic, minority rights, and environmental activism — and also notes that she ended her life according to Act 39, Vermont’s assisted death law. Rep. Cina said he expects a vote in January. Ms. Wadley-Bailey died in August 2016 in Montpelier.
Federal term limits resolution coming to Legislature
On Dec.12, the same day Kyle Midura of WCAX reported about a federal term limits initiative, Statehouse Headliners learned that a Congress term limits resolution will be introduced soon into the Vermont Legislature. Information on the national term limits movement can be found at www.termlimits.org.
Poll: Burlington fifth-most “post-Christian” city in U.S.
A July 2017 Barna Group poll has identified Burlington as the fifth-most “post-Christian” city in the United States. Barna said 53 percent of Burlington residents can be labeled as “post-Christian” because they meet nine of 16 criteria of Christian identity, faith and practice. Portland, Maine, Boston, Albany, and Providence are ranked 1–4 nationally.
Surprisingly, the founders of Vermont required Christian “litmus test” for all state and legislative officials, eminent Vermont legal historian and attorney Paul Gillies writes in the Fall, 2017 Vermont Bar Journal:
“Government and religion were not as separate at the beginning of Vermont’s history as they try to be today. Vermont was founded on Protestant Christian principles. State and legislative officials had to swear that they believed in one God, the Creator and Governor of the universe, the rewarder of the good and the punisher of the wicked. They also swore to acknowledge that the scriptures of the old and new testament were given by divine inspiration. And they had to own and profess the Protestant religion.”
“Marijuana X” documentary to be shown in Burlington, Richmond
The documentary film “Marijuana X” will be screened Tuesday, Dec. 19 at 6:30 pm in the Fletcher Room of the Fletcher Free Library on College Street in Burlington, and Wednesday December 20 at 7 pm in the Richmond Library Community Room. The screenings are open to the public, and donations will be accepted. “Marijuana X”, by filmmaker Michael DeLeon, describes the societal, public health, and economic difficulties created in the state of Colorado by legalization of marijuana. The 50-minute film features U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy, activist Will Jones III, and many others.
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, Divestment Facts, the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare and the Church at Prison.