By David Flemming
Last month, environmental advocates released the Essex (Economy Strengthening Strategic Energy Exchange) Plan, which endeavors to drive down the price of electricity by driving up the price of fossil fuels. The Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) and Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC) hosted a joint webinar last week that sought to answer questions posed by online audience members. Before long, one member of the audience decided to ask Ben Walsh (VPRIG) and Johanna Miller (VNRC) about the impact the plan would have on the purchase of energy-efficient appliances.
A good question! By artificially lowering the price of electricity, Vermont consumers would be more willing to purchase energy inefficient appliances that cost less upfront, knowing that the extra electricity used will be subsidized through the plan. Therefore, with their earnest endorsement of the plan, these environmentalists inadvertently created an obstacle to another of their environmental policy goals: motivating people to buy energy efficient appliances. Clearly, this outcome cannot be tolerated.
And so, Walsh decided to let us in on one of VPIRG’s future policy proposals: “it is something that VPIRG is going to be working on this coming legislative session, (to) go beyond what the federal government does. Look for more information on that in the next few weeks. We think there are some really exciting opportunities for Vermont to keep inefficient appliances off store shelves and protect Vermont consumers from those added energy costs.”
Yes, they are talking about banning products, and taking choices away from Vermont consumers.
Forget merely taxing inefficiency, VPIRG now wants to “keep inefficient appliances off store shelves” and eliminate any possibility that a Vermonter could purchase a washer and dryer that VPIRG believes consumes too much electricity. This really is a paternalistic mentality, and demonstrates clearly that groups like VPIRG and its allies with the policies they promote are really about controlling the population.
There are plenty of rational arguments for purchasing energy efficient appliances. Make a persuasive argument. But abusing the government’s monopoly on legitimate violence to force your neighbor to buy the dishwasher you think they should buy is not moving a free society in a healthy direction. Then again, VPIRG et al have no interest in our remaining a free society.
David Flemming is a policy analyst for the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.