Testifying before the House Appropriations Committee March 9, Rep. Tim Briglin (D-Thetford) showed why he believed the Clean Heat Standard (H.715, likely to be voted on next week) could greatly assist Vermont in meeting its carbon reduction goals, set forth by the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) of 2020. Briglin testified that the Standard could benefit fossil fuel dealers, business owners and homeowners who rely on fossil fuel to heat their homes and businesses. Quite a statement given the backlash there has been!
Briglin explained how his Energy & Technology Committee heard testimony from fossil dealers who “not only sell gallons (of fossil fuel), but they work on your furnace, they do plumbing and heating work. Some of them do weatherization work... This is a real entrepreneurial opportunity for them, because they can work with their customer base who they sell gallons (of heating fuels) to… Attaching a credit to this basically ascribes value to the work.”
It is generally believed that Vermont doesn’t currently have the labor force necessary to install heat pumps and other weatherization quickly enough to comply with the GWSA. Therefore, it would be quite convenient to turn all of Vermont’s fossil fuel dealers into climate ambassadors who will go into a house and install an air source heat pump.
But some people who are comfortable driving a truck in snowstorms simply won’t find the prospect of working in a dark, damp basement very attractive, no matter how much money the government throws at them. Briglin neglected to mention testimony from a fuel dealer with six employees servicing the home heating fuel needs of 1600 Vermont homes, testified that the Heat Standard, “…will put us out of business. We’ll be out of business day one…. We’ll just be gone.” For those fuel dealers who are claustrophobic or physically unable to do weatherization, there is no Plan B. Failure to adapt to the political climate will likely mean a fuel business’ closure.
Despite these drawbacks, in which heating fuel would be impossible to purchase because nearby fuel businesses had closed, Briglin proudly asserted that a “negative impact on price” could lead some fuel dealers to offer a better deal to customers on heating fuel, if these fuel dealers also sold weatherization. That doesn’t agree with testimony Briglin’s committee heard from Vermont fuel dealers who were not already involved with weatherization. The dealer’s testimony suggested that the cost of propane up to $8 to $10 per gallon (currently about $3.70/gal).
Worse still, the technology for replacing fossil fuels is not ready to be a building’s primary heat source. Briglin explained that one of the lauded “air source heat pump,” was not reliable enough to “cover their entire house” and was “supplementary” to fossil fuels for heating.
Even if homeowners enthusiastically embrace new, unproven heating systems and fuel sellers join the fight against climate change, the Clean Heat Standard will strafe one final group of Vermonters before its destruction is complete: taxpayers.
While H.715 costs less upfront than the price of a renovated cafeteria in the Statehouse, Briglin assures Vermonters that the price of the program is likely to dramatically increase, well beyond funding the salaries of “three very high-priced positions.” He admits, “$1.2 million dollars is not going to cover how this system works long term. You know, this is essentially setting up a regulatory process as to how we look at thermal heating in our state.”
If you think the Clean Heat Standard is wasteful at first glance, just wait another few years.