Higley: Lawmakers can refuse climate ban on internal combustion cars – and should

by Mark Higley 

Vermont’s Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA), gives statutory authority for rule-making to the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR). The secretary of ANR has until December 1, 2022 to adopt rules to meet the 2025 emissions reductions requirements in the Vermont Climate Action Plan. 

Mark Higley

Being one of eight legislators on the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (LCAR), it appears we will be reviewing rules that follow California’s clean car standards. California’s clean car standards are much stricter than the federal standards required. I believe Vermont does have the option and should revert to the federal standards.

I believe the GWSA has given overly broad authority to the agencies, as well as to the unelected Climate Council. The mandates and benchmarks (not goals), for carbon reduction do not allow for so many variables that come up along the way. A pandemic, recession, depression, war and other variables need to be considered when making legislative decisions.

Starting in 2026, automobile manufacturers will have to supply more and more electric vehicles and by 2035 only electric or hydrogen vehicles will be able to be sold in Vermont. Even if other states don’t have this requirement and you purchase out of state, Vermont DMV will not allow it to be registered here in Vermont.

Some of the 17 states that were going to follow California’s clean car standards (Colorado in particular and maybe Pennsylvania), have decided to bow out. 

Vermont is not like California in its geography or climate. There are currently a number of problems in California trying to achieve the standard: 

  • Severe pressures on their electric grid with Governor Newsom asking residents to turn their thermostats up to 78° this summer; 
  • Inadequate funding for incentives and rebates for low income residents; 
  • Charging stations mostly in urban areas leaving inadequate charging for renters and in rural areas; 
  • General Motors explaining supply chain issues make it hard to meet demand; 
  • Short supply of electric vehicles is driving up costs. 
  • Environmental justice groups admit reliability of grid is of concern, but say finding the power generation is up to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

What about our reliable grid concerns in Vermont?  During our hot stretch this summer, Vermont Electric Co-Op (VEC) created a “Defeat the Peak” campaign asking consumers to not use certain appliances during certain hours. More recently VEC has asked for a 10% increase in their rates. 

Where will Vermont’s electric companies get its reliable power considering such mandates, and what of the cost to consumers? 

At a meeting in September, members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) stated concerns for ISO New England‘s ability to run its gas-fired generation plants, because of not having enough fuel this winter.

Because of Vermont’s overly ambitious benchmarks, how will we deal with the reduction of revenue from our fuel tax? 

Twenty eight percent of Vermont transportation revenue comes from the fuel tax, in 2019 this amount was $77.8 million.  An average vehicle using 600 gallons a year would realize the state $180 in gas tax. Electric Vehicle (EV) advocates say we should not impose such a fee on new EV owners for incentive reasons. If we are headed down this road we should consider such a fee because all users of our highway infrastructure should contribute.

These are very real concerns that we, as legislators, need to realistically consider and work through together with all involved. Just considering carbon reduction benchmarks by the unelected Climate Council is not being realistic. This year alone we will invest $215 million on climate change initiatives like weatherization, Municipal Energy Resilience Grant program, advanced metering infrastructure and electrification initiatives.

The author is the Vermont House of Representatives member for the Orleans/Lamoille district. 

Categories: Commentary

13 replies »

    • Thank you for your excellent comment . The Progressive/Democratic legislative body functions as the ideological arm of the renewable industry and their lobby without any consideration for the objective energy and economical situation of Vermont. The GWSA and the Climate Council need to be rescinded and dissolved .

  1. Thank you for your excellent comment . The Progressive/Democratic legislative body functions as the totalitarian ideological arm of the renewable industry and their lobby without any consideration for the objective energy and economical situation of Vermont. The GWSA and the Climate Council need to be rescinded and dissolved .

  2. So next they go after my 90 horse Mercury, and the 10 horse trolling motor on my 18′ fishing boat ? When I want to travel to Lake Ontario to fish there, should I plan on staying at a hotel somewhere between here and there to charge my new electric F150, and another night in a hotel on the way back ? The future is very expensive, and it sucks!!!! Give me a home, where the buffalo roam, and the deer, and the antelope play, and I can still hunt them with any firearm I choose.

    • Unfortunately logic is not applicable to climate evangelism. Emotion is the driving force, backed by money.
      The fate of transportation in Vermont, be it goods or people is in the hands of a small number of majority party legislators- the committee make-up is 6 Democrats, 2 Republicans.

  3. Personal anecdote- I’ve been happy with the performance of power tools and have been replacing older corded tools with their newer counterparts lately. My new Dewalt blower and weed wacker have also been great, so I decided to try an electric push mower, but unfortunately that is as far as consumer grade rechargeables go in my opinion. I purchased a Dewalt push mower for $449 that came with one 20vMax battery. This was unable to mow my small, 1/4acre yard in Essex (not even half) and required a second battery ranging from $69-250 depending on the voltage and type Dewalt offers. However with this second battery, I am still unable to finish mowing the last 4-5 rows of my yard until the next day. Luckily, I still have my 1995 Briggs and Stratton GAS mower that cuts my entire lawn in one session ALL spring and summer long on a 2.5 GALLON TANK that I fill once a year (Still get one with a bagger for $350 new). I probably spent a total of $20 in spark plugs and air filters in 30 years. There is no doubt which I will be sticking with going forward.
    The most “sustainable” systems\buildings\items we have are the ones that are already built.

  4. Good to hear of one representative who understands the situation; lack of grid capacity, probable lack of vehicles to meet forced demand because of parts supply issues, lack of sources of “pure” electricity. Thanks Mark. Your father would be proud of you.

    • While Higley’s ability to understand the situation is good to hear, the bulk of his message is disturbing and dangerous. Are we to accept the unilateral ban of the sale of IC engines in 2035? Are we to accept that this decision is out of Rep. Higley’s hands…That his vote merely counter-acts a super-majority vote?
      His No vote and another probable No vote from Joe Benning effectively leave the transportation future of Vermont in the hands of 4 elected officials. With 8 on the Committee of Rules, 2 Republicans- Higley and Benning- leave 4 legislators to decide.
      Mark MacDonald? Currently recovering from a stroke. Best wishes to him in his recovery. Hopefully he has many sweaters.
      Chris Bray? hardly.
      Trevor Squirrell?
      Ginny Lyons?
      Seth Bongartz?
      Carol Ode?
      It’s no stretch to speculate that these legislators will vote yes, with zeal and fervor December 1st, citing all the standard climate evangelist rhetoric for their yes votes. And yet- perhaps the majority of Vermont’s residents actually embrace the ideas and false narratives we’ve been told. Yet somehow I think there will be a majority of residents that regret the super majority decision made this year, in the near future.
      When they finally realize the technology they embraced isn’t getting them where they need to be.

  5. Anything California is doing should send Vermonters running in the opposite direction! Our climate is very different, our hours/days of sunshine are less, winter temperatures are dramatically colder and the average vehicle useable can be very different from lots of highway traffic.
    CO2 is not the boogeyman despite all we hear from the media and policymakers.
    “Since the first +1 degree warming since 1850 was harmless, the next warming of less than +1 degree C. would also be harmless.
”Harmless” is especially obvious when you consider the pattern of global warming since 1975: Mainly warming in the higher latitude (cold) nations, during the six coldest months of the year, and at night (TMIN). Think of warmer winter nights in Siberia as the “poster child” of global warming since 1975 — that’s not exactly a climate emergency!” … “Climate change is about how people in power lie to create fear and control people. It is not about climate reality. Climate reality is that there has been no global warming in the past 8 years (UAH satellite data)”. – Richard Greene

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