by Steve Thurston
When Representative Laura Sibilia, the reporter of S.5 to the full House from the Environment and Energy Committee, rose from her seat on April 20 to explain the bill, she made the following blockbuster admission:
“We have heard folks say that stopping all of Vermont’s emission would do nothing to change the weather patterns that we are seeing with climate change. With apologies to my environmental friends, I mostly agree. If Vermont cannot stop climate change, then why bother bringing forward sweeping climate change bills like the Global Warming Solutions Act and the Clean Heat Standard?”
Why bother, indeed? Critics of the Global Warming Solutions Act and S.5 have been making this argument since these proposals first reared their ugly heads. Has Sibilia had a revelation about the futility of laws she sponsored that purport to solve Global Warming by increasing costs for Vermonters? No such luck!
In fact, Sibilia then took a page from leftist activist author Saul Alinski’s “Rules for Radicals”: “RULE 8: Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new.”
Sibilia found something new. She pivoted away from the failed Global Warming Solutions argument to what she called,“important reasons” why S.5 was necessary, reasons which have nothing to do with the GWSA, or climate change.
Sibilia said, “Fixed income Vermonters, rural Vermonters, and low and moderate-income Vermonters are being exposed to greater and greater financial and health risks as a result of the unregulated and volatile global pricing of thermal heating fuels.”
Sibilia thereby insidiously diverted attention away from the revelation that S.5 is not about solving global warming, while simultaneously invoking another Alinsky rule, “RULE 3: Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety, and uncertainty.” Sibilia portrays Vermonters as fearful, hapless victims, preyed upon by villainous global forces, and implies that S.5 will come to their rescue.
However, Vermonters are smart enough to realize they are not alone in experiencing the inflationary pressures that arose from governments’ response to the pandemic. The global economic crisis continues to wreak havoc. A coming recession is in every national economic forecast. Vermonters understand that Vermont has no ability to influence the trajectory of national or global markets, or to separate itself from their impacts. And Vermonters know that S.5 offers no solutions for what lies ahead.
Heat pumps will not save them money. Sibilia has no control over electricity prices, which will only skyrocket as the grid “transitions” to erratic wind and solar. These heavily subsidized sources need reliable backup, which requires paying gas plants to be readily available until hoped for affordable battery technologies take their place. Its too bad we said goodbye to Vermont Yankee, for it will require 60 wind projects the size of Deerfield or Lowell, or about 360 projects the size of Georgia Mountain to replace Vermont Yankee’s 600 megawatt, 24/7 capacity.
Yes, weatherization will save energy, and Efficiency Vermont has programs in place, funded by Governor Scott’s proposed budget to help with that work. We don’t need a carbon tax scheme like S.5 for weatherization, only the workforce to get the job done.
Sibilia made one final attempt to defend S.5, “There have been some pretty wild claims about what we are voting on here today. Some of those wild claims are fueled by moneyed interests, some from not reading the bill, but most are probably fueled simply by fear of the unknown.” Once again, we can look to “Rules for Radicals” for this angle of attack, “RULE 5: Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”
With all due respect, Representative Sibilia, the “wild claims” you refer to have been made by people who have been paying attention to what you and your fellow autocratic colleagues in the legislature have been doing and they simply do not agree with you. Your Saul Alinsky tactics don’t work on them.
Governor Scott, every Republican legislator, and a growing number of moderate Democrats who listen to their constituents, are opposed to S.5. PUC and ANR employees have warned against its likely “unaffordable”, and “Mack truck” financial impacts. Legislative council described S.5 as “a balancing act between hurting Vermonters and satisfying the mandates of the GWSA”, mandates which Sibilia now agrees will not make a difference to the climate.
An unprecedented outpouring of anger and expressions of fear and anxiety has piled up in the inboxes of legislators. The fear and anxiety, however, are not from the “financial and health risks of the unregulated, global pricing of thermal fuels”, but from Yankee common sense that says raising costs for fuel dealers by forcing them to buy ever more expensive Clean Heat Credits will raise heating fuel prices for all Vermonters. The anger comes from being abused by those we elected to represent us.
The author is an Addison County resident.