A Response to Todd Levy’s Carbon Tax Defense

Todd Levy of Brookline, Massachusetts, who is a member of Citizens Climate Lobby, wrote a response to John McClaughry’s latest op-ed, Are You Ready for a Carbon Tax? Mr. Levy’s article appears in Vermont Digger. You can read it here. Below is my response to his response. — Rob Roper

Mr. Levy,

To share some thoughts on your article here…

“In the future, Vermonters could have solar panels to charge their electric cars.” In the future we may drive much more efficient fusion powered vehicles. Who knows what the future will bring if the free market is allowed to explore and invest as it sees fit. But in order to get all of our energy from solar power with existing technology, including the electricity we would need to power our vehicles, it has been estimated that an area roughly one quarter the size of the Green Mountain National Forest would have to be paved with solar panels. That’s hardly an environmentalist objective. And let’s hope people don’t need to drive their cars during the day and charge them at night.

“If [citizens] want to use their rebate from 90 percent of the tax revenue to purchase a more expensive product, that’s their prerogative.” Yeah, but not all citizens GET a rebate according to the plan being offered. Only the bottom quintile (those households earning $25,000 or less) are guaranteed any kind of rebate – 13% of the total take. The people who paid for the study would skim 10% in corporate welfare subsidies for their renewable energy projects off the top. The rest of the money would be handed out (or pocketed) at the state’s discretion. The middle class gets screwed.

“Gas was $4 in 2011. What better time to enact this policy than when gas prices are already low.” And, “the economic prosperity that the carbon tax would bring them: 1,000-2,500 new jobs and $60-$175 million in additional real disposable personal income by 2030?” Don’t forget, in 2011 the nation was mired in economic stagnation – The Great Recession. It is only since oil prices have been dropping precipitously, putting tens to hundreds of dollars back into people’s pockets each month instead of into their gas tanks has the economy begun to rebound. That extra money allowed families to spend on Christmas presents, go out to eat, spend a night at the movies, etc. You want to snatch all that back with a Carbon Tax?! Nice.

As for passing a tax now because gas prices are low… ss delightful as these low prices are, they will not be forever. The current price war between OPEC and US producers is bound to end sometime, at which point the market cost of gas, etc. will go back up. The tax, on the other hand, will be permanent.

“The carbon tax will help us switch from fossil fuels to renewables gradually, and we’ll all be better off in the long run for it.” This is a very subjective statement. Better how? Power will be more expensive and less reliable. Our once pristine landscape will be replaced by thousands of acres of solar panels and miles of windmills scarring our ridgelines, destroying wildlife habitats and displacing agricultural land. All sources of power have their pluses and minuses. People forget that moving to fossil fuels in the late 1800’s allowed us to stop deforesting the continent for heat and emptying the oceans of whales for lubrication, light, etc. Those are two pretty significant environmental benefits.

“Mr. Shumlin is hopeful that New Hampshire and other states will also adopt carbon taxes.” New Hampshire and other states aren’t that stupid.

“The only losers in this game are the oil tycoons and their lobbyists who would rather fight change than adapt to it.” No, the oil tycoons will simply pass the costs of the tax onto the consumer just as they do current state and federal taxes. The middle class — those who will be forced to pay the tax when they commute to work or take their kids to school, or turn up the furnace on days like today (20 below this morning!), or spend more on groceries because it costs more to ship produce from the farm to the the shelves – will be the losers.

– Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Ron Rogers January 9, 2015 at 2:29 am

I read your response and I am totally in agreement with you. I feel that the only winners if passed are the members of VPIRG who will collect this and subsidize their productions and sales of their over priced crap to the consumers.

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Michael Chrastina January 9, 2015 at 12:36 pm

Thank you Mr. Roper for keeping it real. The technology Mr. Levy is advocating is just not advanced enough for the general public to benefit from at a realistic cost not to mention performance in the North Country, or lack thereof. Vermont taxpayers / homeowners cannot afford to pay the taxes to support every supposedly beneficial green technology, every social program and outrageous education costs. A cost benefit analysis should be looked at before committing peoples hard earned dollars. It doesn’t grow on trees. Thank you Ethan Allen Institute for the good work you do.

Michael Chrastina
North Hero, VT

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Amy Alexander January 10, 2015 at 11:23 am

Maybe as an extra thought, those pushing this “green” energy could do a little research (real research, not fluff written by advocates) regarding the chemical and mineral footprint of solar panels – especially those made in places like China who disregard environmental impacts like used toilet paper. This “renewable energy isn’t so green after all when you consider mining operations, manufacturing and toxic waste by-products, and the fact that no one has figured out how to dispose of this hazardous material after it’s spent. Consider more than just the panels; consider also the batteries required – we all now how environmentally friendly batteries are. IF green energy was so wonderful, it would find its own place in the market without billions in subsidies.

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