What are the practicalities of the carbon tax bill?
It would be difficult to disagree with the words of Rep. Mike Yantachka in accepting an award for supporting passage of the “carbon tax” bill in the Legislature. No question, there is a need to reduce human consumption of fossil fuels.
But what are the practicalities in Vermont of putting a 40-cents per gallon tax on heating oil, a 24-cents per gallon tax on propane and a 32-cents per gallon tax on gasoline? Under the newest version of the legislation, 50 percent of the proceeds will go to electric utilities to reduce rates and help pay for renewable energy initiatives, and 50 percent will go to for rebates to low-income Vermonters.
The problem is that Vermont is a cold and rural state. Substantial reduction in driving and home heating are not optional for most people even if they are reimbursed for the tax at a later date. Unlike urban areas, we have a very limited public transportation system. Will people stop driving to work unless they can afford an electric car? Will people switch to electric heat on the assumption that rates will go down enough to pay the bill?
More problematical is that, once the Legislature gets this new pot of money, it will behave as it always has and use some of it or eventually even all of it for current budget needs.
Popple Dungeon Rd.
Stop the new energy plan
The proposed 2018 Town Plan includes an Energy Plan crafted by our Energy Committee. For this, our Committee relied on guidance, training, assistance, and review by the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission (CCRPC), whose energy model our Committee accepted with blind enthusiasm, unaware of various mistakes, such as the following. A gross arithmetic mistake is found on p. 19 of the CCRPCVT plan document.
As an example of a proposed formula for regional solar PV goals, this document offers an equation for the required solar goal (in MW) of a typical region:
½ (5.8 + 4.0) × 1,742 – 3.6667 = 85.
Any sixth-grader can tell you that the combination of numbers on the left side of this equation does not give anything near 85. I invite the Energy Committee to dissect and fix this daft mistake, and to check all the numerical tables in the CCRPC documents for similar mistakes—if you find one flea on your cat, you should expect to find many more.
And there is a fundamental mistake in the design of the proposed formula. The numbers 5.8 and 4.0 are, respectively, the region’s percentages of Vermont’s population and available land area for solar installations. The proposed formula leads to the absurdity that for a hypothetical region with zero area (so 4.0 is changed to 0) there is still a nonzero solar goal. In contrast, for a region with zero population, the formula dictates that only half of the area is to be used—another absurdity, because in any unpopulated region we might as well fill the entire area with those ugly solar panels, and no harm done. I invite the Energy Committee to contrive a better formula. (Hint: How about a goal directly proportional to available area and inversely proportional to population?)
Furthermore, there is another mistake in the CCRPC plan in that it misconstrues the meaning of the State-average goal of 90% renewables by 2050. This goal was never intended to be applied uniformly to all counties. It was always obvious that some counties have better wind and solar resources than others. To impose on all counties the same goal is an unwarranted overreach.
I recommend that the Energy Committee be instructed to do some serious thinking instead of playing follow-the-leader. And meanwhile let’s leave the Town’s Energy Plan blank, to be filled in later, when we have a better understanding of the consequences of the CCRPC plan, especially the financial consequences, about which CCRPC says nothing whatsoever. Is it wooden-headedness or corruption that causes our renewables enthusiasts to ignore the obvious possibility of buying cheap, very clean electric energy from HydroQuebec?