by David Stahler, Sr.
H715, the Clean Heat Standard, is an attempt to restrict greenhouse gas emissions/CO2 by Vermonters by greatly reducing their use of fossil fuels to heat their homes, their domestic hot water, and cook their foods. In addition to these restrictions, there are plans for upgrading the heating efficiency of buildings and using electric heat pumps instead of heating oil and propane furnaces and stoves now used for heating needs. H.715 assumes that its actions/requirements will accomplish its goal of reducing greenhouse gases while benefiting Vermonters in the process.
This sounds like a noble cause. However, as they say, the devil is in the details.
I further understand that when the House passed H.715 on March 17, they rejected an amendment that would have delayed their vote until March 15, 2023. This date is when the cost benefit analysis report from the Vermont Public Utility Commission would be available. After studying H.715, it appears obvious that it is fraught with both unknowns and unrealistic goals, but at this point I will not make your brain hurt by expanding on my many reasons for stating such. That I will do at a future time! However, it does beg the question: Why not wait for the March, 2023 cost benefit analysis report before voting?
There are two obvious and important reasons why it is prudent to wait a year to vote on Clean Heat Standard H.715. One being the major consequences that it would have on the average Vermonter. Are the hoped for, but not verified, goals worth the harm it might cause to the average Vermonter? Legislators need to remember and follow the Hippocratic Oath that new doctors take: First, Do No Harm. By waiting for one year, the Vermont legislators will have the Vermont Public Utility Commission’s cost benefit analysis report that will answer many of the unknowns for both sides of the isle.
The second, and probably most important, reason to wait for the March, 2023 report is one very important statistic that I have not seen mentioned in the last 18 months since Act 153 was passed: Vermont has the lowest annual greenhouse gas emissions/CO2 of any of the 50 states at only 0.1% of the total US annual emissions. That is 1/10 of 1%! Rhode Island is number 49 and produces 2X as many emissions at 0.2% of the total US annual emissions. You may fact check this at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_and_territories_by_carbon_dioxide_emissions
I know the argument by supporters of H.715 is that we must minimize our CO2 emissions down the least amount possible and do it NOW! If Vermont was Texas at 13.7% of the total US emissions, which is 137 times as much as Vermont’s emission, they would have an argument. It is obvious to any Vermonter that the amount of emissions we will generate in the next year by waiting for the cost and benefit analysis report is minuscule. Also keep in mind that Vermont’s heating emissions account for 34% of our total emissions annually, per proponents of the CHS bill. Therefore we save only 0.034% of the total US annual emissions by NOT waiting for a year. That’s 34/1000%, thirty-four one thousandth of a percent. Seems like needing to vote NOW is a hard argument to win with the average Vermonter.
There are many reasons why CHS H.715 is not good for Vermont and for its citizens. There are ways to reduce our emissions over a longer period of time in ways that do not harm Vermonters. Rushing to do something with so many negative consequences when our contribution to US annual emissions is so small is not good governance. We can do better.
The author is a Lyndon Center resident and a retired Vermont businessman.