LaBarge: What’s really behind the new Affordable Heat Act

by John LaBarge

Vermont Democrats and Progressives are obsessed with the implementation of the Global Warming Solution Act they passed four years ago.

Since Governor Scott’s veto of the Clean Heat Standard Bill during the last legislative session, the majority’s obsession in passing the act has increased. Back in Montpelier this year and in veto-proof control, the Democrats and Progressives have decided to give the failed bill a new name and find a way to put what appears to be a tax and mandates on the backs of fuel suppliers. 

This year legislators changed the name of the vetoed “Clean Heat Standard” to the “Affordable Heat Act.” They’re trying to make it more palatable to Vermonters and hoping Vermonters will accept it because it impacts the fuel suppliers not the consumers, wink, wink. 

The bill would force fossil fuel dealers to purchase clean heat credits, the cost of which will be passed on to their customers, thereby raising the cost to heat our homes.  Those companies selling non-carbon fuel based clean energy heating products will receive the money from the purchased clean heat credits.

Businesses much favored by the Democrats and Progressives – those that install electric heat pumps, winterize homes, sell solar panels, invest in wind generation, electric vehicles etc. – will be on the receiving end of money from the purchase of the clean heat credits. This all sounds confusing to most people and it’s meant to. The bottom line is, this is merely a thinly veiled tax on fuel consumers. 

So, the question is, why are legislators so obsessed with forcing people off carbon based fuels to electricity or wood etc. The answer they would say is obvious. We have to reduce our carbon foot print in order to save our planet. This is nice but no matter how much they tax Vermonters and mandate changes, Vermont will have no impact on the total global carbon load.

Here are some facts. Vermont ranks 51st in the nation in carbon emissions, producing little more than 5 tons of carbon per year. A recent study by the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature stated India produces 2.46 billion (with a “b”) metric tons of carbon a year or 6.8% of the total global emissions. According to the Institute for Energy, China’s carbon emissions in 2021 were expected to increase by 4 percent to 11.1 billion metric tons and that, is expected to increase to 36.4 billion tons as China continues investing in coal fired power plants.

Sen. Chris Bray in an interview stated reducing Vermont emissions is straight forward physics. The top three emissions generators are transportation at 40%; heating at around 34%; and agriculture at about 16%.” 

So why can’t the Senator Bray understand the straight forward physics that just two countries alone with emissions totaling more than 13 billion tons per year now and up to 37 billion tons per year in just a couple of years, will instantly erase whatever reduction Vermont achieves. Still, he will vote to fiscally squeeze more from Vermonters who own gas powered cars and trucks, heat their homes and cook with oil or propane or natural gas, or plow our fields for hay or and grow our food?

There is no way Vermont on our own will save our planet or reduce the global carbon load, period! All the convoluted pieces of legislation will accomplish is inflicting an even higher level of unaffordability to live here in Vermont. 

Vermonters by heart are environmentalists and readily admit the climate is changing and thousands of us are currently trying to do the right thing at a pace they can afford. We honestly get the problem and are moving in the right direction and don’t need politicians to socially manipulate us through taxation, mandates and product banning. We don’t need to be forced, to move to urban settings or change how get to work, how we heat our homes, what appliances we use or even what kind of lawn mowers, chain saws, snow blowers etc. we must purchase because they will ban the use of small gas engine tools along with a ban on gas or diesel automobiles.

So why this constant and relentless push to past the Affordable Heat Act and more? It’s really not about saving our planet because it’s obvious Vermont will have no impact on reducing global carbon loading even if we achieve zero emissions.

Here’s what I think this is all really about:

Over 25 special interest groups coordinating in Vermont, working to pass all kinds of legislation banning, mandating or heavily taxing carbon based fuels just to achieve their political agendas. Vermont is politically an easy target and quite easily manipulated by the onslaught of special interest groups.

These groups and lobbyists practically live in the statehouse during a legislative session. Off season, they recruit and train other activists in Vermont to run for local and state political positions. Once they have found their candidate they heavily fund and support getting them elected to help fulfill their agendas. Passing their legislation assures more power for these groups by having more people contribute to their lobbying organizations. 

So, the reason to immediately pass expensive, radical environmental bills and put the financial squeeze on low and middle income working Vermonters comes downs to this. Follow the money, follow the money, follow the money.

The author is a Grand Isle resident and former House Minority Leader.

Categories: Commentary

13 replies »

  1. Yes, follow the money. Why isn’t nuclear part of this decarbonization drive? Because Dem/Prog donors aren’t in the nuke business. Why doesn’t replacing oil with lower emitting natural gas count for ghg reduction credits? Because Dem/Prog donors aren’t in the natural gas business. Why is biomass — burning wood — considered renewable (and opponents of biomass being shut down in by the Dems/Progs)? Because Chittenden County Dem/Progs like their McNeil biomass power plant.

  2. A very significant point made was that the size of Vermont makes it ripe for outside influence manipulation. It does not take too much effort to tip the balance in a direction changing forever the landscape. This shift clearly has been underway for some time. Just take stock of Rebecca Balint’s congressional run and funding sources. Where has been the indignation and outcries arising from this criminal act ? The sound of the silence arising from the crickets is defining.

    Might as well turn over the keys now and be done with it. It will never tip back till the revolution has consumed itself.

  3. Facts that every legislator should know. We, for our small energy requirement need every energy source to make Vermont living viable for the working people of the state. What we don’t need is expensive, mandated, bureaucratic regulations to destroy everything that makes Vermont the state we love manipulated and
    controlled by outsider interests.

  4. I agree that it is unfair or seems sometimes pointless when agents like India and China are influencing global markets so much. However, this is more about affordability, and the cost of heating in Vermont has nearly doubled for an average household!!! Switching away from fossil fuel heating may be somewhat costly in the short run, but more affordable in the long run. From Vermont thermal spending in 2019, approximately 65% of total fossil fuel spending left the Vermont Economy, whereas only 30%, and 20% of spending on electricity and wood respectively left the Vermont economy. Pushing the Affordable Heat Act forwards will help Vermont’s economy be more self-sufficient in the energy sector, keeping more dollars in state, expanding job markets and local economies. I think Vermont has a unique possibility to disconnect ourselves from these global markets and find more regularity and control over energy prices. This bill was created to make heating options more affordable for lower- and middle-income households because fossil fuels are no longer affordable… also when a similar bill was rolled out in Oregon, for every 5% reduction in heating emissions, fossil fuel prices increased about 1%. For those companies that do not “buy in” to clean fuel or diversifying their business ended up causing a 5-cent increase per gallon. Either way a 5 cent/gallon increase is marginal compared to the recent changes of fuel prices caused by world events. These price increases will hopefully get offset by the money that average households save on thermal costs.

    • No, you are wrong. We can’t afford the up front costs and this is not about climate change, it’s about money like always. Are you for increasing section 8 housing payments, more fuel assistance, more welfare in general. Where is all the electricity to come from to run thermal heating devices. This week is extremely cold and heat pumps alone won’t warm homes. You are drinking the leftist Koolade. Carbon credits for the well connected while driving fuels dealer out of business. Your theory is flawed on all accounts. Vermonters do not need anything from government except to be left alone to run our homes and lives as we see fit and can afford. These grifters in the legislature are not going to affect the earths climate and are the equivalent of the flat earth society. They are to serve us, the people not themselves and their connected green energy snake oil salesmen.

    • If it were as simple a “switching will save money,” then people will switch. (My wife and I have done so twice and are now considering a heat pump,) For those who are unable to afford the front-end costs of switching, there might be some form of subsidy—like help paying off a home equity loan, for example. We don’t need this Rube Goldberg to force us to do the right thing.

      • We don’t need any more subsidies which is another government program to tax for and run. You as a past legislator can’t see past the tax and spend part. We aren’t going to save the earth from Vermont, it’s that simple. And you might want to see a list of manufactured goods made with and from fossil fuels. What we need is for the government to get out of our daily lives. The people are the innovators of all things good, quite the opposite of what government does which is take.

  5. Just another freedom that is being taken away from us. Lots of decisions are being made for us and it is NOT for our benefit (or the planet’s, for that matter). The liberal elites are taking over our schools, our homes, our medical decisions, etc. Big government is NEVER better government!

  6. Wallace Manheimer published a paper in the Journal of Sustainable Development September 2022 asserting that no climate crisis exists. Manheimer holds a Ph.D. in physics from MIT. He is now retired from a 50-year career in nuclear physics, including work at the Plasma Physics Department at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. Manheimer explained:
    Radiation forcing calculations by both skeptics and believers show that carbon dioxide radiation forcing is about 0.3 percent of the incident radiation, far less than other effects on climate. Over a period of human civilization, the temperature has oscillated between quite a few warm and cold periods, with many of the warm periods being warmer than today. During geological times, it and the carbon dioxide level have been all over the place with no correlation between them.
    He concluded that it’s not climate change that will end civilization but, rather, enforcing Net Zero Emissions (NZE). Writing about wind and solar power, he argued it would be “especially tragic when not only will this new infrastructure fail, but it will cost trillions, trash large portions of the environment, and be entirely unnecessary. The stakes are enormous.”

  7. I’ve been making all of John’s arguments for two years now and I’m glad others are catching on and speaking out. I use 8 MMTCO2e as Vermont’s current emission level. Factoid: one Chinese 1400 Mw coal burning plant (80%capacity factor) produces more CO2 in a year that all of Vermont – and the Chinese last year announced the construction of 148,000 Mw in new coal plants. Maybe the Energy Action Network and VPIRG ought to take their CO2 reduction plans to Beijing…

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