2-7-14 – VPIRG Pushes Stricter Greenhouse Gas Cap

by Shayne Spence

Rep. Tony Klein (D-East Montpelier) is trying to update Vermont’s greenhouse gas emission cap law, with strict limits instead of voluntary goals.  H. 557 aims to take Vermont’s current goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 25% of 1990 levels by 2050, and give it “teeth”, as proposed by VPIRG lobbyist Ben Walsh.  The motivation given for this revision in the law is the popular myth of man-made climate change.

Despite Vermont being a tiny contributor to overall greenhouse gas emissions, with the entire United States holding a 19% share worldwide, Walsh and VPIRG say that Vermont should lead on this issue.  But Walsh prefaced this by saying that, no matter what Vermont does, it is unlikely to change the direction the broader world is moving.  Indeed, “Even if the U.S. could literally start being run on ‘fairy dust’ tomorrow, emit absolutely no greenhouse gas emissions from today forward, and the fundamental physics and the fundamental problem with greenhouse gases in this planet would not change.  It would buy the rest of the world a few years to get their act together, but it wouldn’t actually change the basic trajectory that we’re on.”  Watch the video here.

So my question for Mr. Walsh, and VPIRG, is, why should Vermont further burden itself when we will have minimal impact?  Imposing a cap on greenhouse gas emissions will force companies and consumers to use more expensive energy suppliers, such as solar and wind.  We already have enough bad policy driving jobs out of the state, lowering incomes and increasing taxes.  If we add this burden onto businesses looking to relocate here, they simply won’t.  And young people looking to Vermont as a place to relocate will have higher energy costs to consider, which may be the final deciding factor.

In their single-minded focus on their narrative of “human activity is changing the climate”, VPIRG has forgotten another area important to Vermonters; the business climate.  If they claim to represent the interests of Vermonters, doesn’t that include making sure those Vermonters have jobs and can afford to pay their energy bills?

Shayne Spence is the Outreach and Development Coordinator for the Ethan Allen Institute.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Ben Walsh February 8, 2014 at 8:55 pm

No entity on the planet can solve climate change, by itself – not the US, and not Vermont. Given that, we’ve got a couple of choices. We can either a) realize we, and everyone else, have a moral responsibility to do all that we *can* do to leave our children and grandchildren with a livable planet (which will incidentally have the added benefits of saving Vermonters money and creating jobs here, today) or b) quit because the going’s getting tough. I, and VPIRG, are choosing the first option, as Shane knows, and as would be obvious from the video if he hadn’t cherry picked the portion of it that fit his narrative.

Shane, I’d encourage you to put the full video online, so people can make up their own mind on the topic.


Shayne February 9, 2014 at 4:57 pm

I’m worried about Vermont’s ability to compete in an increasingly global world. In the past year, we’ve seen jobs fleeing the state, with Huber Suhner, Energizer, and IBM all announcing closings or layoffs. Heating costs in Vermont are 7th in the nation. A cap on greenhouse gas emissions would force utilities to use and sell more renewable-sourced energy, which is currently 3 to 5 times more expensive. With an additional burden placed on Vermont’s small businesses, many more will choose to close up shop or take their business, and jobs, elsewhere.
But I worry about this bill for other reasons as well. The strict standards it would establish are going to be next to impossible to achieve, even with the most aggressive renewable energy program. The goals, of reducing Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2028 and 75% by 2050, are in lockstep with our goal of 90% renewable power by the latter date. But the physical infrastructure necessary to get there is massive, and would require a fundamental change in the state of Vermont.
To quote Meredith Angwin, “Consider that to “get away from fossil fuels” we will have to convert to mostly electric vehicles and electric heat-pump heated homes. How much more electricity will we need? Right now, Vermont uses 6000 GWh of electricity per year. For the “renewable” future, my preliminary estimate is that we we will need at least three times this much, or 18,000 GWh. In an op-ed in the Valley News, Charles McKenna, a Sierra Club member and retired engineer, estimated Vermont would require 15,000 GWh. (He was making the case for building renewables quickly.) In short we’re looking at a lot more electricity generation. What are the renewable options for obtaining this power?

“Vermont would need to build 140 wind farms with the approximate output of Lowell Mountain’s 21-turbine facility. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory web site and other comparisons, 21 turbines of this size would usually cover 5 miles of ridgeline. These 140 wind farms would use 2,240 industrial turbines over 700 miles of ridgeline. Lowell claims to use only 3 miles of ridge line: in this case, ”only” 420 miles of ridgeline would be required for the turbines. However, not all ridges have wind as good as Lowell, so more turbines would probably be needed. Keep in mind, the entire state of Vermont is 158 miles long and 90 miles across at its widest.

“If we do move to a 90% renewable energy portfolio, much of Vermont’s high country would need to be sacrificed to meet the CEP’s goals. Still, that wouldn’t cover the electricity we would need, because sometimes the wind doesn’t blow.

“What about solar? A 2.2 MW solar facility was recently installed in White River Junction. An area of 15 acres was cleared for this facility. Do to our northern locations and frequent cloud cover, this can be expected to generate only 2,755 MWh or 2.8 GWh per year. Making 18,000 GWh per year with solar would require 6,700 such facilities or 100,000 acres of solar installations. They would cover an area approximately one-fourth the size of the Green Mountain Forest. And, of course, they would not provide any power when the sun isn’t shining.” https://ethanallen.org/commentary-the-90-percent-solution/

Not to mention, solar power was ranked third in total life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions by the IPCC. Nuclear, by contrast, was rated 7th, just above wind. So why are we driving Vermont Yankee out at the same time as VPIRGs profiteering arm SunCommon peddles solar around the state?


Dexter Lefavour February 10, 2014 at 11:37 am

Ending US subsidies on oil and its gross military consumption of the same would free the US economy to nurture its people and would cause drastic reductions in the use of fossil fuels (and associated emissions). VPIRGs initiative is misguided tail wagging of the big dog and corporate cronyism in favoring of price gouging and unsustainable solar companies. BTW, in a free market for energy new technologies might have a chance. Subsidizing solar to compete with subsidized oil is like that previously mentioned big dog chasing its tail.


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