Roper: Does paying flood victims to get cars that explode when wet make sense?

Another example of why more people are dying of climate change policy than climate change.

SpreeTom, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

by Rob Roper

Following the recent flooding throughout Vermont this summer, the state very proudly touted a response program that offers victims who lost or suffered damage to their cars the opportunity to replace them with an electric vehicle. Not an internal combustion engine vehicle, just an electric vehicle. If you want the $11,000 in incentive subsidies, you will get the car the government wants you have, not the one you necessarily want or need.

But there’s a problem with this policy beyond the overreach of A) taxing Peter and forcing him to pay for Paul’s car and, B) putting a government thumb on what should be free-market decisions. Electric vehicle batteries, when submerged in water, create a highly dangerous fire hazard. (See: Electric Vehicles Spontaneously Combust In Florida After Hurricane Ian.)

Encouraging/enabling people who park their cars in places with a demonstrably higher-than-average potential for flooding to switch to vehicles that can explode and burn for days when exposed to flood conditions seems, well, kinda stupid.  

With the examples of flooding in California and the Northeast and fires in Hawaii and elsewhere, we are increasingly hearing the refrain that more people are dying of climate change policies than climate change. With good reason. The repeated decisions by federal, state, and local governments to prioritize CO2 reduction over adaptation and emergency preparedness are making bad situations worse to catastrophic.

Hawaii presents the most horrific example. Hawaiian law states, “Pursuant to Hawai’i Revised Statutes §225P-5, Hawai’i has a target ‘to sequester more atmospheric carbon and greenhouse gases than emitted within the State as quickly as practicable, but no later than 2045’, effectively establishing a net-negative emissions target.” So, bowing to that pressure, the electric companies put their resources into carbon reduction and neglected grid resilience and fire safety.

According to a lawsuit filed on behalf of victims of the Maui fires, as reported by NBC, “Unfortunately, for the residents of Lahaina, these proposed grid hardening expenditures were deferred,…. The suit states the company hadn’t spent any funding on power pole upgrades or wildfire prevention in 2021, 2022 or 2023, nor had spent anything on hazard tree removals in 2021 or 2022.” But, hey, Hawaiians can take comfort in that they are “lead[ing] by example in adapting to the impacts and mitigating the extent of climate change.” At least the ones who are still alive.

Hopefully the lessons of 2023 will convince lawmakers to change gears and start prioritizing practical, beneficial policies focused on infrastructure and public safety over CO2 reduction efforts that are high cost virtue signaling for zero benefit. The questions lawmakers need to start asking are what technologies and policies are the best equipped and most cost effective to help us deal with – and minimize damage from — the next fire, flood, heatwave, deep freeze, etc. Not what has the lowest carbon footprint. And if they don’t, it’s up to voters to replace them with lawmakers who will as soon as possible.

Watch Vermont policy makers advocate for encouraging development in floodplains over public safety concerns as part of our Climate Action Plan. Geniuses at work!

However, comments by Vermont Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn regarding the post-flood EV program don’t fill me with confidence that lessons have been learned. “We hope these incentive changes will make a difference in curbing the worst effects of climate change,” said Flynn.

If Flynn really has ANY hope that this program will make ANY difference in curbing ANY effects of climate change, let alone “the worst effects,” he is completely and utterly delusional. And if his intent is to perpetuate the fraud that Vermont’s CO2 reduction policies can or will have such impacts, that’s just plain dishonest. Maybe he’d like to share some statistics comparing the roles that internal combustion engine vehicles played in rescue operations and clean-up vs. electric vehicles. Looking forward to that press conference.

Vermont politicians are banking on massive adoption of electric vehicles by Vermonters over the next few years in order to meet the greenhouse gas emission reduction goals in the Global Warming Solutions Act (very similar to those from Hawaii noted above). According to the Climate Council, Vermonters need to put 126,000 EVs on our roads by 2030. As of this July, there were 5,260 registered.

This number comes as overall demand for EVs nationally is softening, so it’s pretty clear meeting this target isn’t happening – by a very long shot. People just don’t want these cars (at least not to that level of demand) and taking advantage of flood victims to make that pathetic number look slightly less pathetic seems awfully cynical.

Helping people who have lost a vehicle because of flooding get back on the road is a noble goal, and I’m sure can be a real difference maker for someone trying to get their lives back on track. However, the policy should be to help the most people in the most cost effective and practical way. I seriously doubt that limiting assistance to those who want, have access to the charging infrastructure, and can afford the unsubsidized portion of the cost of an electric vehicle is the best or most compassionate way to do this.

Rob Roper is a freelance writer who has been involved with Vermont politics and policy for over 20 years. This article reprinted with permission from Behind the Lines: Rob Roper on Vermont Politics,

Categories: Commentary

15 replies »

  1. Unfortunately progressive policies are not about results. They are about intentions.

  2. The “fix” to have the cars affected by flood to be replaced is extremely shortsighted. The majority of people who list the most were those living in mobile parks, which were located in flood plains. These people, and I was one of them, are generally lower income, many, like myself, are senior citizens on fixed income. We are trying to replace homes that were condemned in an already impossible housing market. There is no way I, nor any of my neighbors, could afford a new car that starts at $86K.
    Give me the $11K so I can replace the car I have for a hybrid, or, gasp!!, a more fuel efficient newer model car.

    • Maryann, a current article in VTDigger (yes, I read it on occasion) says the following.

      ‘I was so clueless’: Flood-prone homes in Vermont may not come with a warning.
      Vermont is among a minority of states that lack a mandatory flood risk disclosure law for real estate transactions, leaving prospective homebuyers and renters with limited information.

      Would you have lived where you did had you been told of the risk of doing so?

      Why do you think the legislature hasn’t accommodated a disclosure law? Are they simply incompetent? Or do you think they may be setting up people to be victims in order to provide assistance and skim off the top to feather their own nests?

      • I lived in Maryland and owned a home in a rural area. The insurance company set insurance rates based on flood zones. If you lived in a flood zone, you had to purchase flood insurance at an additional cost. It is quite convenient for our legislature not to address this safety issue and risk.

      • Concerning the VTDigger article about being clueless it speaks to the failure of people to apply critical thinking to various situations and think the government should do it for them. As far as housing goes how many people consider the hazards surrounding their home? Near a river, low lying relative to surrounding ground, near a railroad or major highway (consider what is being transported), etc.

    • And yet there you are with the state knowing full well of your predicament and unable to do much to advance a more suitable lifestyle, while your state officials, who are in place to serve you, actively advancing the cause of bringing in more foreign “migrants” from third-world countries, situating homeless people coming in from out-of-state to take advantage of “free” housing opportunities & generous social-welfare programs, and perpetuating a revolving door system of “justice” where criminality and drug dealing know no bounds.

      I know what might help! VERMONT First! Alas, that is “racist”. Who knows…perhaps even “sexist” too when convenient.

  3. Come up with some policy ideas that make little if any sense. Write proposed legislation for them. The law will pass. In Vermont. These days.

  4. Joe Flynn as Vermont Transportation Secretary? What credentials does he have to be in such a position? Who approved this? Like I’ve said before, just throw a warm body at open positions that are hard to fill and hope for the best.

  5. Rob nails it again. Since the introduction of trains to Vermont, the valleys of Vermont are where the people live. Montpelier has flooded regularly forever. Will they ever learn. I doubt it.

  6. Word of the day “kickback”: a returned sum received often because of a confidential agreement, collusion, or coercion. It is not only the word of the day it is the way things are done in the hallowed halls of government. Hearing much “movers regret” coming out of Florida where insurance rates are as high as a mortgage payment, without the 7%-8% interest and 10% down. The long emergency is not the climate, it’s the all out thievery, lies and deception. Carry on!

  7. Another example of why more people are dying of climate change policy than climate change? Another example of asserting a questionable premise as an established fact?

    • How many storms or heatwaves etc. has our Global Warming Solutions Act, or federal anti-fossil fuel policies stopped and thus saved lives? But there are too may sad examples of people dying because of an irrational and impractical race to decarbonize and electrify everything. Brownouts in California that cause air conditioning to turn off during heatwaves and causing heat deaths. Look at what just happened with Hawaii’s incentives to lower the carbon footprint before you clear the dry grass and beef up your electric lines so they don’t spark. The push for biofuels shifting food production, especially corn, to fuel causing thousands of people in Central and South America to starve…. I think it’s a pretty well established fact.

  8. All this turmoil is caused by fools in charge, following only an agenda with no real
    facts or data, just hype and you see the outcome………………. wake up people !!

  9. This is another example of our incompetent legislature, voted in by incompetent and absent Vermonters at the poles. No research, no common sense, no effort to learn about the party or candidates, limitless spending, all for more votes for the Libs and Dems in the next election. Why do you think they are importing migrants? (votes) promising to vote their way in the next election with free this and free that at our expense. Soros has influence in our state because we’re so clueless and easy going. This economy will collapse . The Vermont native and farmer is suffering, the Vermont elderly are suffering , the families of the elderly are suffering, the Vermont families with children are suffering and more and more are turning to numbness for comfort . You can’t afford to check out! You must “ man- up” and fight!! Be present, organize, educate, seek faith in God for help, stand for an Independent United Vermont!!