The Coming Carbon Carnival

The Democratic leaders of the legislature, terrified by the Menace of Global Warming, spent most of this year's session trying to find one or more taxes to increase to pay for a new government "thermal efficiency" utility. This entity would spend $6 million a year to send its employees around the state to explain to Vermonters that if they would just curb their consumption of heating fuels, they would save money! They finally settled on taxing the electricity produced by the state's cleanest, most reliable, lowest-price provider of electrical energy, the Entergy Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Senate leader Peter Shumlin, ardently anti-nuclear, cleverly noticed that Yankee's sales to Vermont utilities are under contract at a very favorable (for consumers) rate until 2012. Thus the new energy tax would have fallen upon out of state utilities that buy the remaining 20% of Yankee's output, or upon Entergy's shareholders who don't happen to live in Vermont. That scheme was a bit too cute for Gov. Jim Douglas, who vetoed the bill. When the House sustained the veto, Sen. Shumlin declared that he would lead the charge in January to push through "an even stronger bill". That was a rather ominous declaration. The 2007 bill imposed $25 million in new taxes, created a $25 million government-run thermal efficiency utility, increased prices that consumers would be forced to pay for newly produced renewable energy, required new licenses for installing solar plumbing, directed Act 250 commissions to deny permits for structures considered by bureaucrats to be insufficiently energy efficient, and branded carbon dioxide a "pollutant". Whew! If that wasn't strong enough for Sen. Shumlin, where will he go with this in January? Taxpayers have just been hit up for $27,000 more to find out. That's the price of a consulting contract that Sen. Shumlin and Speaker Gaye Symington have just awarded to the Montpelier-based Regulatory Assistance Project to "design a system to deliver fuel efficiency programs" and "recommend one or more practical funding sources". The Regulatory Assistance Project is the creation of two former state regulators. Gov. Madeleine Kunin appointed Richard Cowart to the Public Service Board where he served for 13 years. Gov. Howard Dean appointed Richard Sedano to head the Public Service Department where he served for eight years. If anyone can design systems to "deliver" things and recommend new funding sources, extracted from taxpayers and ratepayers in ways the victims can often not understand, it is surely Rich Cowart and Richard Sedano. These guys are good. In announcing the new contract Speaker Symington said that a tax on Vermont Yankee is now off the table. So where else to find $25 million to fund the thermal efficiency utility? There's one very logical answer: the carbon tax. The bill to impose the carbon tax is already in the Ways and Means Committee (H.365, sponsored by Rep. David Sharpe of Bristol.) It would impose a retail sales tax of nine cents per gallon of gasoline and fuel oil, ten cents a gallon of diesel, six cents per gallon of LPG, and one twentieth of a cent per cubic foot of natural gas. A tax on burning wood mercifully - if illogically - is not included. Half of the revenues would go into the education fund (why that?), a quarter would subsidize public transportation, and a quarter would subsidize purveyors of "clean energy". The bill also proposes tax credits to ease the impact on families making under $47,000 a year. Once carbon dioxide is declared to be pollutant that is destroying the planet, taxing its formation ought to result in less of the evil stuff being produced. If the first set of tax rates isn't sufficient, they can always be multiplied until the desired effect is achieved. Rep. Sharpe and his seven cosponsors have faithfully followed the logic of global warming alarmism. Sen. Shumlin, who eagerly made himself the leading advocate of confronting the Menace of Global Warming, hasn't quite advanced to the point of pushing through a carbon tax, but the consulting report he just commissioned may inspire him to do so. Certainly the enviros would be grateful, and the senator would probably get a personal commendation from Nobel Prize winner Al Gore. Of course some selfish people, who aren't so willing to sacrifice to save the planet, will object to a carbon tax. For instance: home owners, renters, car drivers, truck drivers, equipment operators, manufacturers, farmers, ski areas, restaurant and lodging businesses, service businesses, contractors, sportsmen, local governments, hospitals, volunteer fire departments, soccer moms..

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