Commentary: From Heating Fuel Tax to a Green Police State (April, 2019)

April 23, 2019

by John McClaughry

The House-passed heating fuel tax bill (H.439) is now in the Senate Finance Committee, but the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee is busy crafting its own version  (S.171). That version offers the same heating oil and propane tax increases approved by the House, doubling the rates to four cents per gallon. But it goes the House one better (or worse, depending if you’re paying). The House bill raised the gross receipts tax on natural gas by a third, from .75% to 1.0%. The Senate bill would double that rate to 1.5%.

The House bill contained no urgent “findings”. It just raised the tax rates that feed the weatherization program. The Senate bill leads off by declaring grandly that we need to impose more fuel taxes “to help our State meet its greenhouse gas reduction and weatherization goals, thereby addressing climate change.”

The Senate bill recites Vermont’s futility in attempting to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 25% below a1990 baseline by 2012, a goal set by a law passed in 2006.  By 2015 we were emitting 16% above the baseline, and by now we’re probably 20% above. Therefore we must act boldly to suppress carbon combustion!

A year ago the solution was the ESSEX Plan, to hammer Vermonters with a $240 million a year carbon tax by 2026. Its backers believed that would drive people away from relying on carbon fuels for heating, transportation, and businesses.

The ESSEX Plan sank like a stone, so now there’s a new strategy to reach the same goal. It’s “carbon tax one percent a time”, hatched by a shadowy group called the Regulatory Assistance Project. RAP’s principals are former state employees who ran the Public Service Department and the Public Utility Commission.

Their mantra is “strategies to de-carbonize Vermont and address climate change.” That means,  if Vermonters won’t accept a painful carbon tax, persuade the legislature to spend money on popular programs, and levy small and relatively painless taxes on carbon fuels to pay for the expansion.

The program that will consume the new fuel tax revenues, home weatherization, is a sound idea, when it yields energy savings greater than the expense of weatherizing. But with the additional $4.6 million from raising the fuel taxes, the government programs can make this offer to 400 qualified homeowners: “We’ll weatherize your house so you can save 150 to 230 gallons of heating oil each winter. That’s $600, year after year – and it all goes into your pocket, because all but maybe $40 of it will be come from doubling the heating fuel taxes on somebody else! You can spend your $560 on whatever you want!”

It’s time that deal was modified to read “you’ll pay us half of your savings so we can double the number of homes we can weatherize.” Barring that modification, the increased fuel tax free-handout offer should be sent to the recycling box.

The Natural Resources and Energy Committee is also deliberating on a really radical bill called the Global Warming Solutions Act (S.173). This bill would require that Vermonters reduce their carbon dioxide emissions from electricity, transportation and buildings to 25% below the 1990 benchmark by 2025.And how would that fantastic result be made to happen?

The Secretary of Natural Resources would be directed to adopt and implement rules governing anything and everything to drive carbon dioxide emissions down below where they were 35 years ago. No legislator would vote on these rules.

And how would they be enforced? Not only the Attorney General, but “any person” would be authorized to bring a civil suit against a rule breaker, to get an injunction, punitive damages and costs and attorney’s fees.

This heralds a Green Police State, enforced against anyone who uses any kind of fossil fuel above some bureaucratic allowance. It would be a permanent full employment plan for the battalion of bureaucrats needed to contrive, manage and enforce the rules, and a never-ending gold mine for the legal eagles at the Conservation Law Foundation, plus some climate warrior who doesn’t like you.

A better plan? Recognize what Resources for the Future concluded in its $120,000 study: there is no level of carbon taxation that will force Vermonters to meet the hopelessly unachievable CO2 emissions goals announced in 2006. Stop trying to sneak carbon taxes in one percent at a time. Make people receiving big weatherization savings pay at least half of the cost of the improvements that produce the savings.

And never for one minute entertain the idea of giving unelected bureaucrats the awesome power to control all our uses of carbon based fuels, just to show the world that Vermont is doing its (utterly undetectable)  part to defeat the supposed menace of climate change. Or for any other reason.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael Empey April 23, 2019 at 5:39 pm

The linked video below done by John Stossel and the Manhattan Institute explains how all these “Green Dealers” are actually increasing Carbon footprint due to their extreme lack of understanding of how energy works particularly the use of electric cars. Vermont is vilified pretty well for facilitating the closure of VY. Ignorance is blissful for the socialist running this state

https://www.facebook.com/JohnStossel/videos/411012563027519/UzpfSTQ2Njc1NTc2NjIwOjEwMTU1ODUwMjgyMzA2NjIx/

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Thaddeus Cline May 1, 2019 at 3:55 pm

As usual the finding you state have been found to be not true and proven by the real science. See the Journal Nature that owns Scientific American, mind magazine, and skeptic magazines . Government is there to do for its citizens what they can’t do them selfs. Again and again you show you don’t care about people being cold and people saving money in the state of Vermont . You don’t care about climate change because you simply don’t believe it’s happening or you think somehow that because the sun causes solar flares or volcanos disrupt weather or your miss understanding of the Ice age times and what happened during them . Our that god will explain to science how to fix things so we all live in the garden of tax free eden .
What exactly is China so concerned about and Saudi Arabia the controls oil prices at times So concerned they invest in electric cars and solar why dose Northern Europe who’s people are on average way way more educated the the average then America’s invested in alternative to oil even though they produce it . What exactly is that they know that you do not ? Okay so you think somehow it’s being elitist it’s being An elite intellectual snob elite intellectual snob as Spiro Agnew said and then went to jail .
No sorry it’s stick your head in the sand cognitive dissonance, gas lighting , and pedagogy of the oppressed That you seem to know nothing about . But is used by cults to control and manipulate You to go against the very things that would help you and done by the very very rich . We are talking about people who make thousands every day
Not small time millionaires .
Two Cyclones in the same country within weeks one cyclon in the area that never had it before. Record flooding in 3 states in America record fires in California A hurricane right here in Vermont And another hurricane in New York City another hurricane in Houston All meeting climate scientists predictions with more to come for sure . ( prove that’s not so. while one or two mau be chalked up to normal weather but not all of them and they fit the model of higher temperatures which also change acidity which also change coral reeves which also changes currents and tides . our largest naval base in Newport News Virginia is flooding now military doesn’t know where to move its people and it’s ships the military says we have three wars over water now and many more wars will be started over water in the very near future . And yet you ignore your own Military and intelligence services witch you refuse to cut tax’s on. ( what nature shows is it you don’t watch ? What science do you not study but then pretend you know mor3 about then the rest of us??? While cutting discretionary spending on social services that even you or your grandparents or your children need . Why is that you think history will no5 judge you. Or your kids or your children??? What’s it going to take for you to get what’s going on faster then any other ice age . Faster then giant comets Hitting the earth and giant volcanoes going off .? Who will be judged by God for doing the right thing keeping the place you live clean and safe .? You are free market supply side economy that’s been proven consistently not to work by even conservative economists or those that work with the UN and nations besides the United States and I was within the United States who understand. Why is it my grandchildren will be asking your grandchildren how you could’ve been that foolish that you could not understand science culture moral values and ethical values and philosophy in any scene way ???

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William Hays May 2, 2019 at 12:42 am

Please tell me this loon isn’t an English teacher.

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Deanne May 4, 2019 at 3:17 am

Maybe a fake rant copied and pasted here, intended to show how off-the-wall and scare-mongering human-caused-climate-change-believers are…?

Probably not… This guys seems pretty wound up, and truly passionate about his climate beliefs. They are just unintelligible and off the deep end of extreme fanaticism. Kind of humorous to read and try to interpret, though… 😉

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Deanne May 5, 2019 at 5:54 pm

Articles about “climate change” from an atypical and interesting perspective: https://www.icr.org/article/icr-and-climate-change.

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