Lesser: Vermont’s windmill-tilting Climate Action Plan

Don quixote leaves home
Like Don Quixote, the Vermont Climate Action Plan’s goals and methods aren’t realistic. Are its motives as pure?

by Jonathan Lesser

The Perfect Little Climate Conscious State now has its own Perfect Little Climate Action Plan.  Although the Climate Action Plan won’t have any impact on climate, it will have an only too real impact on Vermonters’ wallets.

Jonathan Lesser

According to the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) most recent report, Vermont’s carbon-equivalent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions totaled around 8.6 million metric tons in 2017 and was forecasted to decrease to around 8 million metric tons this year.  By comparison, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, in 2021 total world energy-related carbon emissions were about 34 billion metric tons.  That’s over 93 million tons per day.

Vermont’s emissions are equivalent to about two hours of world emissions.  Even if Vermont reduces GHG emissions to zero by 2050, which will not happen, the total reduction between now and then would be just over 100 million metric tons – one day’s worth of world emissions.  So, nothing Vermont does will have any measurable impact on world climate. 

China’s emissions are increasing by 175 million tons per year, which accounts for 30% of world emissions. It is building 200 new coal-fired power plants to meet growing electricity demand.  The country has said it will not begin to reduce emissions until 2060.  India, the other Asian country with rapidly increasing emissions, doesn’t plan to start reducing emissions until 2070.

Meanwhile, the Vermont Climate Council wants Vermonters to spend billions to “electrify” their lives – electric cars and trucks, electric heat and hot water, and even electric stoves.  The Climate Action Plan claims all of this will cost about $16 billion but will be offset by almost $15 billion in fossil fuel savings and $7.4 billion in health and climate benefits.   If one is to believe the Action Plan, Vermonters will pay only a little over $1 billion to achieve this climate perfection, about $1,600 per person. 

Are these numbers realistic?  Have the costs been underestimated because of overly optimistic assumptions?  Have the benefits overestimated the reduction in   fossil fuel expenditures?  One might think that before imposing the Climate Action Plan on Vermonters and asking them to spend over $1 billion of their money, getting answers to these two basic questions and allowing the public to independently review the assumptions and conclusions would be reasonable.  

Except it’s not.  The “LEAP” model used by the consultants (Energy Futures Group of Hinesburg), which was developed by the Stockholm Environment Institute and funded by the Swedish government, plus numerous environmental groups and renewable energy proponents, is available to the public.  But the actual data assumptions used by the consultants and the results produced by the LEAP model are not. 

The Ethan Allen Institute’s recent Open Records request to ANR turned up nothing. According to ANR, the data used for all of the modeling and the detailed results were not part of the “deliverables” from the consultants who wrote the Action Plan. Thus no independent review of the costs and supposed benefits is possible. 

Moreover, the data inputs that are known aren’t credible. For example, the Action Plan calls for installing over 96,000 residential heat pumps by 2025 – two years from now – and more than 177,000 by 2030. The Action Plan claims these installations cost $4,000 “plus or minus about $1,000 depending on the house layout and other particulars.” Where is that number from?  Who knows? 

A 2021 study by Diversified Energy Specialists in Massachusetts looked at the actual costs of installing residential heat pumps in that state between 2019 and 2021. The median cost for whole house retrofits was $20,000, four times larger than what the Action Plan claims. A previous study looked at installation costs in 600 homes between 2014 and 2019.  The average cost was over $20,000. 

For older homes, installing an electric heat pump often requires upgrading the electric service and running new circuits.  Those costs can run into the thousands by themselves.   And, if the local distribution infrastructure – the poles and wires running down the road – aren’t robust enough to handle the additional electric load, then it must be upgraded too.  Plus, there is the extra load that will be placed on the electric system by the 170,000 electric vehicles that Vermonters will be required to drive. 

The Action Plan highlights the availability of rebates from the state’s electric utilities to lower the costs.  However, the utilities recover the cost of the rebates in the form of higher electric rates.

Virtually none of  the climate benefits will accrue to Vermonters.  As for the health benefits of reduced air pollution, who knows how those were calculated.

The Perfect Little Climate Conscious State  intends to force ordinary Vermonters to upend their lives – and livelihoods – to accomplish nothing except climate virtue signaling and enriching the state’s green energy industry. 

What could be more perfect?

Jonathan Lesser PhD  is the President of Continental Economics, an energy consulting firm. He previously served as the Director of Planning at the Vermont Department of Public Service.

Categories: Commentary

13 replies »

  1. true story: during the recent power outages caused by the snow and wind storm I had a friend who had to evacuate her home with her pets for 3 days while the heat in her home plunged to 28F. Reason being that her new pellet stove requires electricity to operate , heat pumps would have been useless, and with no gas or wood stove there was no option for staying warm, heating water, or cooking.
    So in the “perfect little virtual signalling world Vermont wants to create” my friend would be no better off. My family also lost power but with an old fashion wood stove we stayed warm and held out till the power returned.

  2. If this was a baseball game we’d demand that they “throw the bums out !” Until then as Nancy Reagan would say, “just say no” to bankrupting the people of that State of Vermont !

  3. The mistake most people make when dealing with members of the woke cult is attempting to engage them with logic and rational arguments. These people did not reach their views by logic, but by emotion.
    Algore and greta thunberg don’t use logic, they rely on emotion. philip baruth uses emotion to legislate. chris bray – emotion. mark macdonald, emotion and sweaters.
    paul burns, executive director of vpirg used emotion to lobby and help write the GWSA for Vermont’s histrionic liberal legislature.
    Injecting fact such as Mr. Lesser does in this article immediately brings the folly of all things green to light. Fact should trump emotion and Mr. Lessers facts are spot on. Already, panic is starting in the legislature to double down on the climate agenda because they are told Vermont may not make the 2025 required goals- for an alleged myriad of reasons- from available labor, funding, raw materials and lack of taxpayer funding for this grandiose scheme.
    But remember please: That the groups that lobbied and wrote the GWSA for Vermont benefit greatly from Vermont not meeting it’s goals. They are lawyers with briefs and lawsuits in hand today, to file in 2025. You can bet this scourge of lawyers will use emotion to defraud the taxpayer in court, using the law they wrote.

    • This is exactly correct, and it’s an increasing socio-political problem. The Wokies have an active disdain for reason and objective reality, which is a central component of critical & feminist theory. They will tell you that facts and reason are oppressive patriarchal concepts, because their subjective, emotional feelings are what matter. And if we listen to them, or worse, vote them into office, they will wreck a civilization.

  4. We do need to deal with the problem of environment. However, the tactics of the Green movement will not help and, apparently, even worsen the problem.

    • Perhaps you could elaborate what those problems are. Everything suggesting a problem comes from a computer model. Junk in and junk out. Every catastrophic prediction over the last 50 years has not come true. Look at the sky on a clear day, it’s blue and the oceans are not and will not boil and if they did there would be nothing man could do about it. The earth is 4.5 billion years old and has warmed and cooled long before man. This is nothing more than the latest scam to suck in the useful idiots and make billions for those invested in the scam. How can people be this ignorant? It’s easy with you are a gullible fool. We need to say no! And they need to stop telling us what we have to do!

  5. If we are driven to rely on electricity alone, with 90%
    of the energy sources gone.
    Will we use Fairy Dust Electricity?

  6. VERMONT sees 58 days of full sunshine each year. 🥺 Solar is a loser as Mississippi has discovered.
    “The data are clear: when all these costs are added up, we see that solar is much more expensive than using Mississippi’s [or any other state] existing natural gas, coal, or nuclear power plants.”
    Mississippi has “just” 111 sunny days a year, on average.

    • “Mississippi as a whole is a great place for abundant sunlight, as the state receives 216 sunny days per year, which is above the national average of 205.”

  7. Thank you Dr. Lesser for putting our dilemma in such simple understandable terms. It is hard professionally to discuss this when the only basis of the other party is faith and emotion that do not recognize any impediment such as laws of physics, math or economics.
    We, Vermont, need economical, reliable energy from all sources. We are not CA and do not have their problems. They do not have ours. What we don’t need is the Vermont Climate Council and their “Green” advocacy utopians destroying Vermont.

  8. I think Mr. Lesser vision here is very clear. This initiative will have no impact on the environment but it will cripple the enterprise of the citizenry. Perhaps the real purpose here has to do with image management. If you’re for it you get to cast yourselves as included among the enlightened lovers of the earth…as opposed to us troglodytes who aim only to defile it.

  9. All about the money honey… not yours or mine…but what comes out of our pocket and goes to the corporate interests who can pay the lobbyists to sell this crap…

    And no one is addressing the elephant in the room about climate and change – that geoengineering is changing it intentionally – yes, and weather warfare is now a reality – and we are in the end of 26,500 year cycle of environmental and climate change – caused by the sun.

    Vermont’s lobbyists are telling people who’ve survived weather extremes for centuries how to weather weather changes…and its a big big fail.
    Don’t try to call anyone during an outage either. SOL.

  10. Thank you Jonathan for using and exposing actual facts while evaluating Vermonts’ climate action “plan”. I suspect that the uncaring people who came up with the GSWA and hence this threat to Vermonters are like the villains in the movies, they know, they just don’t care. Emotions seem to have replaced reason and logic in the Montpelier lawmaking process. Please run for office.