Environment

Scott’s new climate group aims to cut costs, promote business

Phil Scott
Gov. Phil Scott announces a 21-member commission Thursday that he has instructed to develop money-making and cost-reducing solutions to climate change. Photo by Mike Polhamus/VTDigger
Gov. Phil Scott has asked a 21-member commission to figure out how to combat climate change while making money for Vermont businesses and reducing costs for everyone else.

Scott formed the committee with an executive order he signed Thursday. His committee takes the place of former Gov. Peter Shumlin’s Vermont Climate Cabinet, which itself replaced former Gov. Jim Douglas’ Climate Neutral Working Group.

Scott said he had reservations about forming another commission, a sentiment he said was shared by many in the room.

But while Montpelier insiders often criticize Vermont lawmakers’ use of commissions as an alternative to action, Scott said his concern is that such groups often come up with unrealistic proposals.

Nevertheless, he said, there appears to be a lack of consensus on how best to treat the problem, and a commission might be the solution.

“To be honest, I was not immediately convinced this was the best path forward,” he said. “But I thought about it deeply, and I keep coming back to this point: If we all agreed on appropriate actions to take, we would have taken them already.”

The commission ought to come up by the beginning of 2018 with at least three tangible proposals for Scott and the Legislature to take on, Scott said.

By July 2018, the commission should come up with an “action plan” that reduces the state’s greenhouse gas emissions “while driving economic growth, setting Vermonters on a path to affordability, and ensuring effective energy transition options exist for all Vermonters.”

Thus far, Scott said, climate change has acted as “a disruptive force on Vermonters and our economy, (and) the question we have to answer today is whether we’re going to let the impacts of a changing climate threaten our people and our economy, or are we going to harness the innovative minds of Vermonters to lead the growing climate-change economy.”

Although Scott said he’s wary of commissions’ tendency to overreach, the task that lies ahead, he said, will be “monumental,” and “all sectors of Vermont’s economy will need to change to take advantage of this opportunity.”

The commission includes government officials, an environmental advocate, a fuel dealer, a former Chamber of Commerce executive, an as-yet-undetermined student, an engineer and others.

Peter Walke, deputy natural resources secretary, will co-chair the committee with Paul Costello, of the Vermont Council on Rural Development.

Other members are:

  • Michael Schirling, secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.
  • Michele Boomhower, designee of the secretary of the Agency of Transportation.
  • June Tierney, commissioner of the Department of Public Service.
  • Marie Audet, representing the agriculture sector.
  • Linda McGinnis, representing the clean energy sector.
  • Joe Fusco, representing the commercial hauling or trucking sectors.
  • Bob Stevens, representing the construction or development sectors.
  • Kristin Carlson, representing energy utilities.
  • Mary Sprayregen, representing the energy efficiency sector.
  • Johanna Miller, representing a statewide environmental organization.
  • Peter Bourne, representing the fuels sector.
  • St. Albans Mayor Liz Gamache, representing local government.
  • Adam Knudsen, representing the manufacturing sector.
  • Bill Laberge, representing small businesses.
  • Bethany Fleishman, representing the transportation demand management sector.
  • Tom Donahue, representing the Vermont Community Action Partnership.

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Mike Polhamus

Recent Stories

  • Townsend Peters

    We don’t need another commission. Laws, programs, and authorities exist now. We need action and effective leadership to implement what is already on the books.

  • James Hall

    Very disappointing……. Shumlin lite?????

  • Willem Post

    Vermont’s lowest cost options to reduce CO2 by about 60% are listed below. They surely would reduce Vermont’s CO2 much more than have expensive, highly visible, highly subsidized, wind and solar systems, on pristine ridge lines and meadows, during the past 10 years.

    – Much more low-cost (6 to 7 c/kWh), clean (no particulates and no CO2) hydro energy from Hydro Quebec. About 5000 MW hydro plants are already built ready to supply the electricty. A 1000 MW HVDC power line has all approvals to be built.

    – A statewide building code requiring all NEW buildings to be zero net energy or energy surplus, and bonuses for NEW buildings off the grid, and increased efficiency standards for existing buildings.

    – Set a standard for all NEW light duty vehicles to have 30 mpg. A bonus for each mile above, a penalty for each mile below.

  • Gary Murdock

    Well it’s good to see that the Governor is setting up this committee the “Vermont Way”, qualified by connections. How about some representation for those of us that have nothing to gain personally, but everything to lose by being forced to pay for what this committee dreams up?

    • Willem Post

      Gary,

      That committee should have included at least one architect and one engineer with net zero energy, and surplus energy, and off-the-grid building design experience.

      New buildings can be designed to use 1/3 to 1/4 of standard energy hog buildings.

      About 95% of ALL Vermont buildings are energy hogs.

      A great opportunity to do some good for already-struggling Vermont households and businesses, PLUS lower their energy bills and CO2.

  • Willem Post

    Peter,

    About 50% of global warming is due to manmade actions, including CO2 émissions, urbanization, industrial agriculture, deforestation, etc.

    The other 50% is due to natural cycles, such as coming out of the Little Ice Age since about 1700, about which we can do nothing.

    “Fighting” Mother Nature may work temporarily, but in the end is futile.

    It is much better to work WITH Mother Nature. Building access roads, destroying pristine ridge lines and meadows would not be part of that.

    • Edward Letourneau

      What melted the mile thick ice that covered 40% of the planet 13000 years ago. It was more warming then is projected now, and man didn’t do it.

      • Willem Post

        Hi Ed,

        Good question.

        1) Here is some information regarding climate cycles.

        http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/cop-21-world-renewable-energy-and-world-trade

        2) Here is a wealth of information regarding the role of CO2 in the past and at present, and how fudging the data and faulty computer programs made global warming appear warmer than reality.

        http://euanmearns.com/the-data-adjustment-bureau/

        • Robert Lehmert

          Can’t you find anything to support your points from recognized scientific community? If you have problems with NASA or NOAA, try Scientific American or even National Geographic.

          Your “fudging the data” assertion was proven to be a falsehood many years ago. One characteristic of your posts is an persistent assertion that all data must be linear. Add to that an implicit assertion that scientific methods never change, when in reality that is the essence of scientific inquiry.

  • Tom Hughes

    Yesterday, Governor Phil Scott took another step towards climate solutions. His executive order is an important recognition of Vermont’s climate and clean energy goals. The team he has pulled together is impressive.

    The new Climate Action Commission will quickly discover, however, that despite all of the good intentions over the last 27 years, CO2 pollution since 1990 is still on the rise in Vermont. We will not achieve our greenhouse gas emission goals without new public policy commensurate to the challenge.

    A well-designed price on carbon pollution will strengthen Vermont’s economy, create jobs, spur innovation, make the low-carbon technologies of the 21st century more affordable, and can prioritize low- and middle-income Vermonters — all while reducing the pollution that is harming Vermonters’ health and damaging the environment.

    Energy Independent Vermont (www.energyindependentvt.org) looks forward to — and expects — the opportunity to work with the new Commission.

    • Edward Letourneau

      Why do you guys think a massive tax on home heating oil and gas that is necessary for driving to work, would cut the use? Explain how without damaging the lives of people.

      • Gary Murdock

        Edward, did you read the part about strengthening the economy and creating jobs? They obviously solved the problem redistribution socialist’s have been trying to solve since the beginning of time…how to tax a population into prosperity. They said it so it has to be true! And as mentioned below in another comment, the gas to get to work is not necessary. Were all going to become stay at home vegetarians with unmowed lawns, government will take care of us.

      • Willem Post

        Ed,

        According to the graph on page 26 (see URL), the carbon tax would increase from zero in 2016 to about $520 million in 2026. The tax rate would stop increasing in 2027, i.e., the tax collections would be decreasing in 2027 and beyond, because less carbon would be consumed. Any bill, if enacted, would add up to 2 years to the above timetable. This carbon reduction scheme would be in addition to another wasteful, political boondoggle, called Efficiency Vermont. See below.
        http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/vermont-energy-transfor

        The $520 million carbon tax, less 10% as subsidies for the Home Weatherization Assistance Fund, HWAF, and the Vermont Energy Independence Fund, VEIF, less sales tax reduction from 6% to 5%*, would yield the “leftover” carbon tax. All of that could not take place without some state and local bureaucrats spending time on it. The below table shows a 5% government administration cost.
        * Sales tax reduction, per proposed bill would be:
        Fiscal year 2018, $31.5 million
        Fiscal year 2019, $48.6 million
        Fiscal year 2020, and after, $66.8 million
        See table in URL.
        http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/vermont-special-interests-would-grab-their-share-of-the-carbon

    • Willem Post

      Tom,
      1) Plant life, flora, cannot exist without CO2. Greenhouse owners augment CO2 to about 1000+ ppm to promote growth of fruits, vegetables, flowers, etc. NO CO2, no food. CO2 definitely is NOT a pollutant.

      2) Carbon Tax Impact On A Typical Vermont Family, as reported on VTDigger:
      – The carbon tax would impose a $10 per ton tax of carbon emitted in 2017, increasing to $100 per ton in 2027.
      – The carbon tax would generate about $100 million in state revenue in 2019 and about $520 million in 2027.
      – The carbon tax would be added to the fuel prices at gas stations and fuel oil/propane dealers. Drivers should expect a tax increase of 9-cent per gallon of gasoline in 2017, increasing to about 89 cents in 2027.
      – Homeowners, schools, hospitals, businesses, etc., should expect a tax increase of 58-cent tax per gallon of propane and $1.02 per gallon of heating oil and diesel fuel in 2027.
      – A typical household (two wage earners, two cars, in a free-standing house) would pay additional taxes in 2027 of about:
      – Some of the carbon tax extortion would be at the pump, some when the monthly fuel bills arrive, and some as higher prices of OTHER goods and services.
      Driving = $0.89/gal x 2 x 12000 miles/y x 1/(30 miles/gal) = $712/y
      Heating = $1.02/gal x 800 gal/y = $816/y
      Total carbon tax in 2027 = $1528/y
      Sales tax reduction 5/6 x 1400 = $233/y
      Net tax increase = $1295/y

      • Gary Murdock

        Willem, maybe you can confirm something for me. I recently read that VT is getting close to the point that our Green Mountain State’s fauna consumes more CO2 than we produce. Will VPIRG’s Tom Hughes propose taxing our carbon so we can pay other states to use their carbon to keep us alive?

        • Willem Post

          Gary,

          The US Forest Service and EPA have reduced the sequestering of CO2 per acre of forest to about 50% of what it was before.

          That means Vermont is nowhere near sequestering all of its CO2 émissions.

          BTW, those calculated CO2 émissions do not count the CO2 of burning wood in a heating or power plant, because that CO2 is only partially sequestered over a period of 50-100 years.

        • bill_christian

          Fauna doesn’t produce CO2, it generates CO2. Except for that you are spot on. 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Willem Post

      Tom Hughes, a staff member of VPIRG
      http://www.vpirg.org/about/staff/

      Vermont Energy Independent?
      http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/vermont-energy-independent
      For Vermont to be truly “energy independent” it would have to:
      – Disconnect from the NE electric grid, i.e., not use it as a crutch.
      – Produce all of its primary energy, which includes the energy for generating electricity, for transportation, and for heating and cooling, from in-state energy sources; energy for generating electricity is only about 35% of all primary energy.
      – Have enough thermal and electrical energy storage capacity, GWh, of various types, to cover wind and solar lulls, especially in winter, and to cover the seasonal variation of wind and solar generation, to ensure adequate energy supply to the Vermont economy, 24/7/365, year after year.
      – The capital cost of just the energy storage systems would be at least $10 billion.
      – The operating and maintenance cost of such renewable energy systems would be several multiples of the existing system.

      “Sayonara” to the near-zero, real-growth Vermont economy. See URL.

      http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/wind-and-solar-energy-lulls-energy-storage-in-germany

      • Robert Lehmert

        The grid is not a “crutch” any more than a car or a hammer or a computer is a crutch. It is a tool.

  • Dan DeCoteau

    From Montpelier our politicians are going to heal the planet from a geographical area the size of less than a postage stamp on the earth. This has to be arrogance of the highest level when these people actually believe they can control or even affect the earths atmosphere by taxing us into oblivion, but they can’t accurately predict the weather a few days in advance.

  • Willem Post

    George,

    Climate change is killing?

    The world’s population is increasing by about 70 million per year.

  • Edward Letourneau

    …And somehow you think 600000 people in one tiny place are going to change the behavior of the rest of mankind — if we just write enough laws and tax them into it. NOT.

    • Robert Lehmert

      No, Edward. 630,000 people are not going to change the behavior of the rest of the world. Integrity is the act of doing the right thing when no one else is looking. But say what you will based on your own experience, upbringing, and philosophy. Technology is making carbon-based fuels extremely competitive with the carp that is killing humanity, and when all externalized costs are recognized, it’s already cheaper to use nega-watts and natural watts than haul it out of the earth. See the charts here: https://tinyurl.com/lfp8ury

      • Edward Letourneau

        Nice idea motherhood and apply pie idea, but dead wrong for a place that already has a cost of living 20% over the national average to saddle people with excessive taxes on necessities like heat and driving to work.

  • bill_christian

    I don’t think there is a single utility packaged nuclear plant of this size in the world. Am I wrong? Here’s a free rule of thumb – if something is really great and easy to do, and no one has ever done it, check your information once more.

  • Robert Lehmert

    Biomass is carbon neutral. I don’t love it personally, but forestry is a resource that I vastly prefer to screwing up drinking water or blowing up Lac Magantic or irradiating the Pacific Ocean.

  • Robert Lehmert

    Here you go — explain this: http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

    • Don Dalton

      We have historical evidence that the north pole “melted” in 1817 and 1922, as I’ve pointed out before. In 1817 the British Royal Society wrote to the Admiralty of “unprecedented warmth” at the north pole that might allow for new navigation routes.

      Furthermore, we have evidence that the medieval warm period was actually as warm as or warmer than today, and that this warmth was global and not just in the northern hemisphere. In fact it was one of the main projects of climate scientists to “get rid of the medieval warm period” because doing so would allow scientists to claim that our current warming was unprecedented. Thus, Michael Mann’s hockey stick graph came out in 1998; this was an outlier graph published by a newly-minted PhD (Mann) that pushed aside published research (including by the noted and experienced climatologist HH Lamb) showing a clear medieval warming and contemporary research by Huang that showed a much warmer medieval warm period than did Mann. The IPPC latched onto Mann’s graph, shunted Huang aside, and ignored Lamb’s assessment of medieval warmth that it had embraced in an earlier IPCC report. Why? Because they had a good story and they weren’t about to let facts get in the way.

      We also have evidence, in the Greenland ice cores, of periods of past rapid climate change. This is nothing new although it ruins a good story so is ignored by the proponents of catastrophic warming.

      BTW, for those who want to learn about the warming debate, there’s great dialogue going between Happer and Karoly/Tamblyn at https://thebestschools.org/special/karoly-happer-dialogue-global-warming/

  • Robert Lehmert

    Although I cannot be certain, it is widely believed that drought precipated the Syrian civil war. The drought conditions in the Levant region can be measured though tree rings. Because of the extreme longevity of species like olive trees, these show growth back many hundreds of years. This drought is the worst in many hundreds of years. The drought which began in in 2006 worsened until 2011 pushing millions of farmers off their lands and into cities and refugee camps, where the Assad government repressed them when they weren’t ignoring them. The East African drought is actually worse due to the scale and the fact that it has not yet ended. Some 45 million people are on the verge of starvation while fleeing warlords and repressive governments. https://tinyurl.com/o79rf2t

  • Robert Lehmert

    I “spent” money to seal and insulate my house and put a solar electric system on my roof. I guess my “spending” is part of your round numbers without a source and without context. I get a house that requires unusually low heating and zero air conditioning, and which has a zero annual electric bill. Did I “spend” money or invest it in what amounts to be an inflation protected tax-free retirement plan?

    • Willem Post

      Robert,
      You are lucky you can use the rest of the grid as a crutch.

  • bill_christian

    I stand by my first comments. These were not built for utility power. They were built by the government, for ship propulsion, at astronomical cost, and to illustrate that nuclear could do things besides leveling cities. “The President seeks no return on this vessel except the goodwill of men everywhere … Neither will the vessel be burdened by proving itself commercially feasible by carrying goods exclusively.” It was fantastically expensive and was taken out of service after ten years. The Savannah’s power plant would probably cost 200 million today. Far cheaper, and safer, to build wind farms. I am not 100% opposed to nuclear power. I prefer it to coal and fracked gas. But it really does have some huge problems. That cannot be denied. A knowledgeable team of terrorists could easily take over a small nuke plant (obviously we can’t afford super security for thousands of small facilities) and could melt it down, or at least steal fuel. Very easy to melt a reactor. Close a valve, bypass a safety relay… And there are several other similar extremely serious problems of cost and safety. You want every third-world country to have these too? That’s how you make nuke weapons, you realize. And 100,000 years of incredibly good waste storage has quite a cost. And just plain cost. And limited uranium supply.

  • bill_christian

    The left also worships the concept of a spherical earth. Scientists need something to believe in. They are crazy fanatics.

  • bill_christian

    Are you suggesting that is possible? Thorium is mostly used for chemtrails, is what I read on the internets.

  • Willem Post

    Robert,

    Without the grid, your PV system would be almost useless.

    Your electric bill is much smaller due to feeding your excess energy into the grid, which you can later withdraw. The grid is acting as your NO FEE energy bank and as a supplier when your “bank balance” is empty.

    Technically you should pay more for the extra services the grid supplies to you.

    Regular rate payers only withdraw from the grid. They do no banking.

    • Robert Lehmert

      Willem, apparently you are unaware that –as I clearly stated in my prior comment — I pay a fee to access the grid and that I am legally entitled to do so. I pay what I am required to pay — and if that displeases you, I suggest you could attempt to get appointed the PUC and attempt to change the rules to fit your personal preferences.

  • Willem Post

    Robert,
    The peak temperature of the most recent cycle (the fourth) was about 125,000 years BP, and its maximum glaciation was from 26,500 – 19,000 years BP.
    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/cop-21-world-renewable-energy-and-world-trade

    The temperature gradually increased from the glaciation low point until about 7000 years BP and then gradually decreased until about 1870, after which it increased from -0.4 C to +0.6 C, a delta T = 1 C, concurrent with the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere.

    The warm part of this cycle started with a world having a lot of biomass, and CO2 in the atmosphere of about 280 ppm, but after about 1870 manmade CO2eq was added to the atmosphere.

    The temperature increased about 1 C, as manmade CO2eq was added, which has been highly noticeable, on a human scale.

    According to the graphs in the URL, the 7000-year downward trend in temperature is being interrupted by manmade activities of the past 150 years. See URL.

    http://www.zmescience.com/research/studies/global-temperatures-reaching-11000-years-peak/

  • Willem Post

    Robert,

    The cost of living index is a PRIVATE index, not a government index. It compares costs of urban areas, such as the greater Burlington area with other such areas in the US.

    The purpose is to get some idea for a business and a person to be hired to agree on a salary.

    Obviously salaries in areas with high COLs are higher than in areas with low COLs. Just Google

    • Robert Lehmert

      Who said anything about COL indices? Not me. But thanks for the education.

    • Robert Lehmert

      I would like to point out that I didn’t mention anything about COLs. I don’t really care if they’re “PRIVATE” or whatever. What I did say is that Vermont cannot be fairly compared to places where the quality of life is substandard. In the United States, we have the right to live in any state, and if prices are more important than quality of life, go for it.

  • Robert Lehmert

    Great article in the New York Times yesterday about Green Mountain Power’s progress in better management of our electrical grid and the resulting benefits and cost savings: https://tinyurl.com/y9xbe4eb

    • Willem Post

      Robert,
      That article is far from great.
      The housing development is for low-to medium income households. Each household unit costs about $3.6 million/14 = $260000, including land, septic system, well, grid connection, etc. Each household unit, 12’ x 60’ = 720 sq. ft., has:
      – Twenty PV solar panels, 300 watt each = 6 kW of panels at $3500/kW = $21000
      – One heat pump = $3500
      – Centralized control of mechanical and electrical systems
      – One 6 kWh/4 kW AC battery unit by Sonnen (a German company) = $8000, or $1333/stored kWh, which is extremely expensive
      If the maximum annual rental income is very generously assumed at about = $1000/unit x 14 units x 12 months = $168,000/y, no private investor would want to undertake such a project without at least 50% of the turnkey cost as a cash subsidy.

      Conclusions:
      This project appears to have no economic viability.
      Every Tom, Dick and Harry chipped in to get it build so they would have something RE to show to the world.
      Compared to the turnkey capital cost, the rental income, very generously assumed at $168,000/y, is grossly insufficient for any return on investment.
      No private investor would touch it with a ten-foot pole, unless at least 50% of the turnkey cost were provided as cash subsidy. See URL
      http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/pv-solar-sonnen-combo-low-income-housing-demonstration-project

  • Robert Lehmert

    Uh, the heat trapping properties of CO2 were discovered and published in the 19th century by Foote, Tyndall and Arrhenius. It’s quite a breathtaking leap to write off human contributions to the extraordinary increases in CO2 over the past decades, and startling for you to single-out desertification as the sole or primary cause.

  • Willem Post

    Robert,
    I have seen these units.
    My numbers are correct.
    I suggest you open all referenced URLs.

    • Robert Lehmert

      Self-referencing URLs are unlikely to address my questions about over engineering and SWAG estimates. While it’s easy to insist that your numbers are correct, unless someone is actively involved in the industry, it is easy to assume pricing which may be wildly incorrect –and no one would be the wiser for it. Are you actually currently involved in project engineering and job costing or merely “seen it” in a blog? I see no enumeration of costs offset by this investment. You quote only a “rental cost” of $1,000 a month. Round numbers are always suspect, but yours are particularly suspect. My solar system offsets its monthly carrying cost of $125 a month with the power it produces. Add in the other components (including energy and hardware for heat and air conditioning) and we come no where near that round $1,000 cost. Did you throw in a Tesla too?