Roper: Senators admit Clean Heat Standard is a carbon tax

By Rob Roper

On the morning of April 15, after weeks of discussion and just hours before they voted 4-1 to advance legislation that would saddle Vermonters with a radical, economy transforming “clean heat standard” for home heating fuels, senators on the Natural Resources & Energy Committee asked a remarkable question: “What do you get to do with a [clean heat] credit when you buy them?” They did not know. They could not really explain.

This is pretty shocking considering the whole proposal for a clean heat standard is based on the concept creating an obligation for fossil fuel dealers to buy clean heat credits in order to sell fossil-based heating fuels to their customers. It’s kind of an important detail to clearly understand before making an informed decision about whether or not the bill is a good idea.

Senator Mark MacDonald (D-Orange) kicked off a roughly thirty minute discussion trying to get to the bottom of exactly what the committee was voting on with the somewhat bizarre statement, “Before I kill someone to get their clean heat credits, I want to know what the charge is going to be. Embezzlement, scam, securities fraud?”  (20:00-52:00)

Committee Chair Chris Bray (D-Addison) tried – and failed – to explain how the credit system might work, leaving MacDonald even more confused, “Where does the money come from?…. I don’t understand it so I can’t explain it…. I don’t understand anything.”

“So, when John McClaughry says we’ve got a fuel tax coming – a carbon tax – I think John is correct. That’s what we’re doing. Isn’t that what we’re doing?”

– Sen. Mark MacDonald, April 15 in Senate Natural Resources & Energy Committee discussion

“That’s right. In essence you’re building into the price of the fuel the cost to help reduce the emissions…..we don’t know what the cost impacts will be.” 

– Committee Chair Chris Bray, responding to MacDonald

Bray tried again, pointing out that sellers of fossil heating fuels would be obligated to purchase “clean heat credits” in order to sell their products, and that the cost of these credits would likely be passed along to consumers. His defense of a general ignorance about how all this would work in practice highlights a major problem with this bill: “No one knows this for sure, because they [the Public Utilities Commission (PUC)] haven’t worked out the system.” These senators are about to sign off on and give force of law to a “plan” that doesn’t yet exist, and therefore can’t be understood.

As MacDonald summed up, “They (the PUC) in theory understand what we are not able to explain.  We are asking them to design the thing that will work. But we can’t explain what we are asking them to design.” 

One critical point did register with MacDonald, however. “So, when John McClaughry says we’ve got a fuel tax coming – a carbon tax – I think John is correct. That’s what we’re doing. Isn’t that what we’re doing?” 

Bray agreed. “That’s right. In essence you’re building into the price of the fuel the cost to help reduce the emissions.” 

MacDonald laid out the gist, “By paying this thing to pollute — to burn this fossil fuel which is doing our atmosphere and our future damage, you’re going to pay extra…. And that extra money is going to be used to hire people who are interested in reducing the amount they use.”

Bray again agreed, “That’s a yes.” He also noted, “We don’t know what the cost impacts will be.”

So, let this sink in…. Our legislators are voting to make a law that will radically transform not just our economy but our entire way of life, not really knowing what it is they’re voting for. They don’t know how it works, they don’t know what it will do, they don’t know what it will cost, they can’t explain it to their colleagues or their constituents. But four out of five of them voted for it anyway. (So did 96 out of 150 House members.) 

Governor Scott is demanding the Clean Heat Standard bill contain a “check back” provision wherein after the PUC does design the plan and legislators do have enough information to understand how it will work and what it will cost, legislators would then have to affirmatively vote to put the Clean Heat Standard into law. This is just common sense. But common sense is something a majority of our elected leaders completely lack. They rejected the idea of a “check back” and doubled down on their “ignorance is bliss” approach. 

This is why Vermont is a hot mess of unaffordability and regulatory quagmires. The people we’ve elected to run the state do not know what they are doing, admit that they do not know what they are doing, do it anyway, and don’t care what it costs or how it disrupts the lives of the people they ostensibly serve. 

If as a result of this entirely negligent approach to governance you can’t afford to heat your home future winters, Senator MacDonald has advice for you: “Get a blanket for [Pete’s] sake!” Or to paraphrase Marie Antoinette, “Go eat cake.”

– Rob Roper is on the Board of Directors of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Editor’s note: Gov. Phil Scott told Vermont Daily Chronicle at his press conference yesterday he will veto H715, the Clean Heat Standard, unless the bill requires that the ‘clean heat credit’ program it requires the Public Utilities Commission to design and implement is returned to the Legislature for approval. Here’s what he said:

VDC: “What are your concerns if any about h715 and are you prepared to veto if they’re not met?”

Scott: “My concern is the Legislature abdicating their position, their authority and their vote by giving this to the Public Utility Commission. If they want to have the PUC take the first step and make recommendations, then it needs to come back to the Legislature. They can give up their authority, their vote, but they can’t give up mine. Or they shouldn’t give up my authority to weigh in and that’s what they’re doing. So bottom line, it needs to come back to the Legislature so that we have a vote up or down on whatever they come up with.”

10 replies »

  1. Admitting that the clean heat standard is a carbon tax is about enlightening as saying the Vermont legislature is led, anchored and operating from the far left.

    McDonald and Bray have merely stated the obvious……..Their admittance pales in comparison to Democrat Rep. Scot Campbell’s admission that Vermont cannot stop climate change or even affect it…….Time to put Rep. Campbell’s picture up on the screen and air out the painful truth that Vermont’s climate change mandates will cost billions and turn Vermonters up side down while accomplish nothing.

    Maybe Senators McDonald and Bray can speak to the Campbell statement that Vermont can do nothing to impact climate change.

  2. Again, if we allow legislation by emotion, we are asking for ill-conceived legislation such as this.
    It appears that Mr. Bray in his position as Chair of the Natural Resources and Energy Committee is struggling to understand exactly what it is he thinks he needs to legislate. He certainly seems unwilling to consider other viewpoints, focused only on creating an electric powered nirvana regardless of cost or negative effect to his constituents. Whom does he really represent?

  3. Let’s make the first test of CO2 reduction in the Statehouse next winter!
    Cut the fuel oil or natural gas by 50 %, 60% !!
    If the legislators like that, then they can consider the “GOOD Goal”
    with accuracy.

    • Doug, converting the state house to electric would only increase taxes. Now if fuel dealers would refuse to deliver to the representatives…

  4. Please call your local fuel dealer, tell them about this story, email them this article and ask them to email this article to their own senators . Those senators must be taken out of their bubble and know they are exposed .

  5. The people we’ve elected to run the state do not know what they are doing, admit that they do not know what they are doing, do it anyway,…”

    I don’t believe this statement.

    The hardcore Socialists like Ginny Lyons, Becca Balint, Baruch, Krowinski, Bernie Sanders to name just a very few… KNOW what they’re doing.

    Marxism is more a revolutionary theory than an economic one. “They” mean to overthrow the existing society. It’s that simple.

    Critical Race Theory, Black Lives Matter, Climate Change, Federal debt, inflation, crime & violence, open borders, postmodern queer and gender theory normalized in elementary schools, God & religion banished from the public sphere, cohabitation normalized and marriage and the nuclear family shunned as ‘privileged’.

    I could go on but NOW do you see the pattern?

    Read Thomas Sowell’s Marxism or James Lindsey’s Race Marxism or W. Cleon Skousen’s The Naked Communist or Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom or James Burnham’s Suicide of the West or Whittaker Chambers’ Witness.

    It’s in plain sight.

    They want Revolution.

    • There certainly are legislators that know exactly what they are doing, legislating and pushing other legislators to do likewise. There is a plethora of lobbyists coaxing and influencing as well. There are also the clueless legislators, being led down the socialist path by the leadership and lobbyist. The deepening turn to leftist, liberal and socialist policies in Vermont does appear orchestrated by select legislators and their handlers. As I stated above, emotion has been used very effectively this biennium to stir legislators and their constituents that agree with these leftist ideas. This Clean Heat Standard is but one of many socialist goals that have used emotion to the climate evangelist’s favor.
      I will point out that Governor Scott, regardless of our opinion of him has walked a veritable tight-rope for his entire term, struggling to balance veto’s against emotional angry legislators whom stand ready to override his vetos. Scott’s actions are a big factor in preventing or slowing the complete socialist takeover of Vermont’s government. Perhaps, similar to ripping the band-aid off a wound, his departure- whenever that is- will allow the infection of socialism to completely engulf Vermont-
      with very predictable results.

  6. One critical point did register with MacDonald, however. “So, when John McClaughry says we’ve got a fuel tax coming – a carbon tax – I think John is correct. That’s what we’re doing. Isn’t that what we’re doing?” Are they really that stupid that they are just realizing that this is in fact a tax on carbon, or do they think that we are that stupid that we are just realizing that ???? Either way, they are stupid…….

  7. This clean heat bill seems to be pushing Heat Pumps. Am I correct?

    This is what I came up with when I looked at costs of Heat pumps versus Oil Boilers.
    Maybe someone out there has better numbers – please share or correct me if I am wrong.
    Comparison based on a 6 family apartment building with 9 total bedrooms, 4,800 sq ft building..
    1 boiler for all units
    1 80 Gallon Water heater for all units

    1. Heat pumps last about 12 years
    2. All/majority electrical parts
    3. 2 Bedroom with living room and kitchen and 1 bath apartment needs 3 heat pumps
    $3,500 per Heat Pump installed
    $10,500 for a 2 bedroom apartment (3HP)
    $31,500 for a 6 unit apartment building (that has 9 bedrooms total, 17 rooms total)(9HP)

    4. $31,500 divided by 12 years = $2,625 per year cost
    5. Repairs for Heat pumps – parts are taking a couple weeks –What happens if there is no other source of heat? Currently repairmen are getting very few calls for “no heat” because pumps are not the only heat source for most Vermonters.
    6. The POWER/FUEL to power the electricity that powers the Heat pumps comes from Coal, Oil, Gas, Solar, wind. There are about 54 days of sun in Vermont and some of those days solar panels are covered in snow. hmmm.
    7. Heat Pumps do not give out sufficient heat during freezing cold periods.
    8. Cost to run and repair and REPLACE heat pumps is unknown long term $___?
    9. Environmental costs for all the heat pumps & the repairs & the man power & travel $___?
    10. When Heat Pumps are discarded – can they be recycled? What % is recycled?

    OIL Burners
    1. last about 30 years
    2. Majority mechanical parts
    3. One $9000 Oil Burner will heat 6 apartments
    4. $9000 divided by 30 years = $300 per year cost for an oil burner
    5. Fuel costs $350 average cost per month for fuel. $4,200/year for a 6 unit apartment building. This is based on oil cost of $2.60/gal.
    6. When an oil burner breaks down, the repairman can figure out the problem and repair the boiler within an hour. This is Necessary in a cold climate. COST to repair is $80 -$250. Old burners may need 2-3 repairs per year.
    7. Yearly Maintenance, filter change, System cleaning is about $300
    8. 99 % of parts on an Oil Burner can be recycled.