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Vermont's green regime

Editors note: This is the first in a series of pro and con guest editorials about controversial global warming legislation in Vermont. In future issues, we will present all sides of this issue. To submit your guest viewpoint, send an e-mail to: rttribune1@verizon.net . The report of the Vermont Governor's Commission on Climate Change calls upon the gGovernor, the legislature and all Vermonters to make sweeping changes in the way Vermonters live. Not coincidentally, it recommends adoption of virtually the entire agenda of the state's environmental movement dating back to 1970. The foundation of this sweeping program is the supposed Menace of Global Warming, the result of - so the report eagerly assumes-the human-caused emission of greenhouse gases. Declares the report: "The time for debate over the realities of global climate change is over." Vermont is at "grave risk". Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is "the major challenge facing Vermonters in years to come." This alarming pronouncement reflects a deeply ingrained Green Theology that unshakably believes that selfish, greedy consumption-crazed humankind is turning the planet into a steaming hothouse, to avert which our governments must force us to make painful and costly sacrifices. If Vermonters were the primary cause of the planet's ills, it might make some sense to force us to mend our ways. But we aren't. In fact, Vermont is already the greenest of the 50 American states. We are the invisibly tiny tail on the global carbon dioxide dog. Long before they discovered the Menace of Global Warming, Vermont's environmental movement had pursued a well-defined agenda. At the head of it was controlling and reducing air and water pollution. This was and is a sound policy. Except for agricultural runoff, it has largely been accomplished. But after that, the more controversial goal was land use control. The Perfect Little State, they said, must have a state Land Use Plan to prescribe the correct use of every single acre of land. The first attempt at enacting such a plan was beaten down after a four-year battle ending in 1976. A second attempt produced Act 200 in 1988, which by the mid-1990s had effectively expired. Always there were proposals for preserving "historical settlement patterns"-"development centers" with "traditional downtowns"-as the alternative to the evils of "sprawl". In every land use battle, the enviros heaped scorn on the human right of private property ownership. They view it as an obsolete relic of Dark Age selfishness and a unjustifiable nuisance to public-spirited planners. Now the enviro land use control agenda is back again. In the name of fighting greenhouse gas emissions, the climate change report urges high-density development centers surrounded by CO2-absorbing pastoral landscapes and connected by public bus and rail transportation. To suppress greenhouse gas emissions by private vehicles, the report favors "feebates" (penalty taxes) on low miles-per-gallon cars, vans and trucks, and a percentage-based sales tax to make motor fuel more expensive. One might favor that latter proposal to raise funds to rebuild Vermont's deteriorating roads and bridges, but that is clearly not the intent of the report. It wants to raise more money to subsidize public transportation, not to pay for better and safer highways for undesirable private driving. The report urges that state government assess itself a carbon offset fee for having a "carbon footprint". Thus not only would taxpayers pay for the state highway crews to plow the roads and state police to patrol them, but they would also pay additional taxes to the state to subsidize favored renewable energy producers. Wind turbines are mentioned.. The report advocates the creation of a "vigorous, proactive, public/private partnership to promote "enormous, systemic and long-term cultural, cross-generational change in our awareness and behavior through the efforts of our formalized K-12 public and private school systems." (Whew!) Cynics will doubtless refer to this as the "Green Madrassa" proposal, whereby our environmentally-certified schoolteachers are instructed to fill up their pupils with certified Green Theology. To direct and supervise these momentous changes, the report advocates creation of another public/private partnership to be called the Vermont Climate Collaborative. This centralized super-government would "insure coordination of efforts and development of cross-cutting initiatives to address climate change." Creating the perfect little state requires no less. There are, admittedly, some things in the report well worth doing, whether or not Vermont is threatened by The Menace of Global Warming. But throughout the report one looks in vain for any candid discussion of the costs that would be imposed on Vermonters. We are only told that the costs of not doing all this will be even greater. Maybe, or maybe not. The enviros insist that the greatest challenge facing Vermont is The Menace of Global Warming. A far more serious challenge will be the capture of public policy by a well-organized and well-funded movement eager to seize upon an imagined climate crisis as the excuse for enacting the entire enviro agenda, regardless of what it might cost the taxpayers, and regardless of how their Green Regime might overpower our local communities and diminish our freedoms.

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