State Headliners: Carbon tax in Vermont’s interest, lobby group claims, but Scott prefers empowerment

By Guy Page

A September 11 Vermont Digger op-ed written by a senior staffer at the Vermont Public Interest Research Group slams Gov. Phil Scott for not doing enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The author makes this remarkable statement:

“Mid-way through the [Vermont Climate Commission] public listening tour last fall – when putting price on carbon pollution was far-and-away the most popular public recommendation – the governor tweeted his opposition to the concept, making clear he had no interest in public input that disagreed with his views.”

Carbon taxes? Popular? If carbon taxes were popular, candidates for the 2018 Vermont Legislature would be publicly telling voters, “Elect me, because I will vote for a carbon tax and my opponent won’t.” Yet the reverse is more often true. Gov. Scott opposes carbon taxation precisely because he is nterested in public input.

President-Elect Barack Obama in 2009 famously told a group of opposition party legislators, “Elections have consequences, and at the end of the day, I won.” The Vermont gubernatorial election of 2016 had the consequence of proving Vermonters didn’t want a carbon tax.  Many observers believe Gov. Scott’s firm “no” on carbon taxation put him over the top in 2016.

A carbon tax would inevitably punish poor, rural Vermonters who must have gasoline to get to work and heating oil to stay warm. For the same reason it would scarcely be felt by well-off, urban Chittenden County residents who live in newer, more efficient homes equipped with heat pumps and who drive fewer miles to work in newer, more fuel-efficient cars. It is perhaps no coincidence that most sponsors of various carbon-tax bills represent Chittenden County’s “inner ring” of affluent cities and towns.

Cui bono (‘who benefits’) from a carbon tax? Not poor, rural Vermonters, that’s for sure. A large share of carbon tax proceeds would fund a transition from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and renewable power and heat. It is perhaps no coincidence that many VPIRG officers and trustees have strong ties with the renewable power industry. The president and vice-president are respectively current and former senior managers at Seventh Generation, a renewable-products company that promotes “a switch to 100% renewable energy.” According to the VPIRG website, the treasurer “co-founded groSolar, a national distributor and installer of renewable energy systems.” Several trustees also are renewable industry entrepreneurs.

So it’s not surprising that VPIRG has opposed reducing solar power subsidies and giving local communities more saying in energy project siting. When an industry can tell a municipality where and how it will build its factories, and then sell its product at a guaranteed, over-market price, that’s a pretty sweet deal. In recent years the Vermont Public Utilities Commission has restored some siting and pricing balance in favor of ratepayers, utilities and municipalities.  Gov. Scott has not stood in the PUC’s way.

But VPIRG raises a fair question: what have Gov. Scott and his administration done to help Vermont businesses, homeowners, vehicle owners, and electricity consumers reduce their carbon footprint? Quite a bit, as it turns out. Consider their progress in:

Emissions-Reduction Goals:

Transportation:

  • Proposed drawing down $2.8 million from the Volkswagen Settlement Fund to expand the availability of electric vehicle charging stations in Vermont.
  • Worked with eight other states to update the Zero Emission Vehicle Action Plan to further the electrification of the transportation sector.
  • Proposed and passed state laws to simplify billing and improve price clarity for charging stations.
  • Opposed the Trump EPA plan to reduce Obama-era car and light truck MPG standards. (VPIRG has even suggested the Scott administration is doing the Trump administration’s bidding – an absurd notion to anyone aware of the near constant collisions between policies emanating from Washington and Montpelier.)

Energy Efficiency

  • Signed into law and working to implement two major appliance efficiency standards in H.411 (Act 42) and H.410 (Act 139) in successive legislative sessions.  Act 42 served as a backstop to help ensure implementation of proposed federal appliance standards.
  • Supported sustainable investments in electric energy efficiency at levels that are among the most ambitious in the nation and consistent with Vermont law.
  • Helped some of Vermont’s largest, most efficiency-compliant employers save money while meeting energy efficiency goals, through expansion of SMEEP and Energy Savings Accounts Account programs.

Renewable Electricity Generation

  • Implemented the Renewable Energy Standard that first took effect as a standard in 2017.  The standard requires the utilities to be 55% renewable, and helps utility customers transition away from fossil fuels for heating and transportation.   The Vermont standard is among the most ambitious renewable standard in the U.S..
  • Vermont has experienced unprecedented growth in renewable generation, especially solar, since January 2017 and now has almost 300 MW installed of solar power.
  • Adjusted renewable generation and net-metering and siting regulations to be more compatible with market energy pricing and local control of development, and thus become more sustainable in the long run.
  • Worked with Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) partner states to agree to lower the CO2 emission cap; Vermont is in the process of adopting the necessary regulations to achieve that result.
  • Supports New England Clean Power Link underwater cable to bring carbon-free Canadian hydropower to southern New England.
  • Urged, with four other New England governors, more support for existing low-emissions hydro and nuclear power generation as an enhancement of power grid safety and reliability.

Clean Energy Finance

  • Helped energy companies (Vermont Gas, etc.) establish the Heat Saver Loan Program of low-interest, 100% financing for energy-efficiency improvements.

Advanced wood heating

  • Over a half a million dollars invested through incentives for advanced wood heating systems in schools, businesses, and homes for over 60 projects.

Storage Systems

  • Completed major investigations into clean energy pathways including battery storage systems and cold climate heat pump systems.  Conducting an ongoing collaboration and investigation advances in clean energy finance.   Vermont’s first utility-scale (5.3 MW) battery storage program will soon go before the Vermont Public Utilities Commission for review, with construction to start next year.

For many years, VPIRG and other “green” lobby groups in Montpelier have insisted the best path to emissions reduction runs through a huge, mandated, subsidy-enforced build-out of instate solar and wind power generation. Gov. Scott has taken another path: make reduction affordable and desirable by empowering Vermonters to choose clean energy options. He believes Vermonters have a clean, prosperous future – one that doesn’t include being punished with a carbon tax.

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 Public domain

7 thoughts on “State Headliners: Carbon tax in Vermont’s interest, lobby group claims, but Scott prefers empowerment

  1. 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.

    Left-leaning Democrat politicians have adopted an unwritten “economic development policy”: Maximize the schlepping of federal funds into Vermont to start/subsidize government programs, and start/subsidize government/business partnerships, which, as a side benefit, create a spectrum of subsidy-dependent constituencies, that produce reliable votes year after year. These programs and partnerships usually pay too little in state and local taxes to more than offset their subsidies, i.e., they do not provide a significant net gain. Annual government budget deficits are offset by means of annual increases of taxes, fees and surcharges imposed on the near-zero, real growth private sector, The “policy” has failed to create a vibrant, growing private sector, with prosperous households and businesses, since 2000.

    Carbon Tax Impact On A Typical Vermont Family, as reported on VTDigger:

    – The carbon tax would impose a $10 per ton tax of carbon emitted in 2017, increasing to $100 per ton in 2027.
    – The carbon tax would generate about $100 million in state revenue in 2019 and about $520 million in 2027.
    – The carbon tax would be added to the fuel prices at gas stations and fuel oil/propane dealers. Drivers should expect a tax increase of 9-cent per gallon of gasoline in 2017, increasing to about 89 cents in 2027.
    – Homeowners, schools, hospitals, businesses, etc., should expect a tax increase of 58-cent tax per gallon of propane and $1.02 per gallon 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.

  2. To our friendly neighborhood Vermont Lobbyists, Progressives, Democrats, Socialists, Democratic Socialists, Classical Liberals, Republicans, Constitutionalists, Conservatives, & just all Vermonters.
    Most of all I would like, wait want answers from the Vermont Lobbyists stating this nonsense, including current & prospective State Legislators, Bureaucrats, & Officials to explain to me how a Carbon Tax is in VT’s interests and I want to facts & provable science to back these claims up. I’m not talking about made up facts nor made up or tampered with scientific studies, not personal opinions & statements from partisan narcissistic self entitled lecturers not doers (ex. Al Bore i mean Gore & the self annointed divider in cheif you didn’t build this Barack Obama now taking credit for the Trump Economic Boom when Mr 1.09% GDP said 3% GDP will never happen again!!)] So called climate warriors need to just be quiet with their environmentally destructive un recyclable hybrids, flying around in private jets, long convoys of SUVS, and have 100s if not 1000s of times larger carbon footprints. Who is paying these lobbyists & donating to our Legislators to gain this ability influence the legislature so heavily with nonsense on something most sane people do not want to pay another tax nevermind an illegitimate pat yourself on the back tax?? Look what’s happening to California people..

  3. Vermonters would be spared a lot of expense if we just got rid of the notion of “reducing Vermont’s carbon footprint”. Vermont’s footprint is negligible in climate change. Focus on environmental pollution, and stop using plastics, something we all can control, and leave Climate Change to God.

  4. This Carbon Tax Boondoggle is just that, with all the issues in the world with pollution, you
    can take every car, truck, bus in VT and shut them all down ” Today ” and it won’t make a
    difference not one iota in the dreaded Carbon Footprint scam !!

    This is just a “Tax” more money from working taxpayers so ” Liberals ” can feel like they
    have done something Great !!

    Kind of sounds like Al Gore’s ” Philosophy” while flying around in his Jet the spewing his
    “Sky is Falling ” scenario………Liberals.

    Then the State Wonders why they are having a problem with people leaving Tax, Tax, Tax
    until we clear the State House of Liberal Progressive Democrats, Vermont will not be VT.

  5. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, if everyone moved out of Vermont and nothing took place here for the next 100 years, the impact on global warming wouldn’t even be measurable. Are we willing to harm hard working Vermonters and the elderly so that far left wackos can feel intelligent and morally superior?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *