Use this page to get answers to some of the most-asked questions about this policy. Have questions you don’t see here? Email info@energyindependentvt.org. Click on a question in the table of contents below to navigate to the answer.

Table of Contents

Global Warming

Vermont Energy & Climate Plans

Carbon Pollution

Saving Vermonters Money by Saving Energy

Tax Cuts and Rebates

Low-Income

The Economy

Outside of Vermont


Answers

Global Warming Back to top

  • How is/will global warming impact Vermont?
    • Answer: In one catastrophic event, Tropical Storm Irene brought the reality of climate change to Vermont, washing away Vermonters’ homes and upending their lives. With Irene and the many other “hundred year floods” we’ve had in recent years, Vermonters know that global warming is real, and it’s here. Here are the facts:
      • Based on an analysis of state data from the National Climatic Data Center, a 2012 report titled “When it Rains it Pours” found that heavy downpours or snowstorms that used to happen once every 12 months on average in Vermont now happen every 6.5 months on average. Moreover, the biggest storms are getting bigger. The largest annual storms in Vermont now produce 35 percent more precipitation, on average than they did 65 years ago. Click to read the report.
      • As we saw with Tropical Storm Irene, heavier precipitation can cause serious impacts. Written testimony from the Irene Recovery Office provides a look at the impacts from Irene. Read more here.
      • The Vermont Climate Assessment, compiled by UVM and the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, evaluates the impacts of climate change across all sectors of Vermont’s economy. Click here to see how maple producers, winter tourism, agriculture, water quality and more will be impacted.
  • Is it too late to stop climate change?
    • Answer: Global warming is already happening now, but it’s not too late to stop the worst impacts of climate change. The question we must answer as a society is at what level of risk we’re willing to put our kids and grandkids. The level of action to reduce carbon pollution and transition to clean energy should match the seriousness of the risk for more frequent and catastrophic disasters like Irene.
  • How can the actions of such a small state like Vermont do anything to make a dent in global warming?
    • Answer: Vermonters understand that we can’t wait around for others to figure out how to solve problems. While this problem is a planetary one, the solutions – reducing carbon pollution, saving energy and getting what energy we do use from renewable sources – need to happen at every level – household, community, state, national, and international.
    • With prominent climate deniers taking over federal government in 2017, and fossil fuel money dominating congress, it is very unlikely that significant climate action will take place on the national level. States need to lead, and Vermont in is a position to be able to do so, especially given that we have no jobs in the fossil fuel extraction sector but do have a large renewable energy sector that employs thousands of Vermonters.

Vermont Energy & Climate Plans Back to top

  • How does carbon pricing fit with Vermont’s energy and climate goals?
    • Answer: Vermonters know energy efficiency and clean energy can save them money, and they want help getting it. With a tax on polluters, we could make smart investments in our homes, businesses and communities needed to save money while meeting the goals we’ve set that are critical to doing our part to tackle global warming. The carbon pollution tax is a necessary, though not the only step, to meet these goals and level the playing field for clean energy.
  • What are the state goals for emissions reductions, clean energy, etc? How close are we to meeting them?
    • Answer: In 2011, Vermont’s Comprehensive Energy Plan (CEP) was released to the public following months of research, public input, and planning. In the summary statement titled “A Vision for Vermont’s Energy Future” recommends that Vermont set a path to obtain 90% of our total energy from renewable sources by 2050.
      • “Meeting this goal will require us to virtually eliminate Vermont’s reliance on fossil fuels, which we can do through enhanced efficiency and greater use of clean, renewable sources for electricity, heating and transportation.”
      • Vermont has a long way to go to meet this goal. Today, about 16 percent of the state’s total energy portfolio — for heating, transportation and electricity needs — is supplied by renewable resources. A recent “Total Energy Study” by the Vermont Public Service Department, however, found that meeting this goal is both affordable and achievable. It will require strong policy to do so, though, and putting a price on carbon pollution was one such potential policy solution.
    • Carbon Pollution Reduction Goals: Vermont leaders have long understood the responsibility we have to do all we can to take meaningful action to reduce our own contribution to global warming by reducing carbon pollution and set benchmarks to do so. Yet, Vermont fell far short of its 2012 statutory greenhouse gas reduction goal. The state’s emissions rose throughout the 1990s but then returned to roughly 1990 levels in 2012, far short of the 25 percent reduction goal. Putting a strong, fair price on carbon pollution is the single most significant policy the state can enact to set Vermont on a path to actually achieving our climate and clean energy goals. That said, other accompanying policies — like net metering, a Renewable Portfolio Standard etc — will also be required.
    • Home weatherization: To increase energy efficiency, save money, and reduce fossil fuel use, in 2007 the State of Vermont set a statutory goal of improving the energy fitness of 25% (80,000 homes) of the state’s housing stock by 2020, including a specific commitment to retrofitting low-income homes. On our current trajectory, Vermont will likely fall short of this goal by more than half. Considering that every $1.00 invested in weatherization, returns $2.51 to the household and the community in energy savings, funding weatherization programs is a great investment and a top priority for the Energy Independent Vermont campaign.

Carbon Pollution Back to top

  • What is carbon pollution?
    • Answer: When we burn fossil fuels, we put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere where it traps heat and causes global warming. Reducing fossil fuel use and relying on cleaner and lower cost energy sources saves money and reduces pollution.
  • What is a carbon pollution tax?
    • Answer: A carbon pollution tax holds fossil fuel companies responsible for their global warming pollution. We know that burning fossil fuels causes global warming, yet taxpayers get stuck paying the price after increasingly frequent destructive weather, like Irene. Our plan would charge oil & gas distributors, like Exxon and Irving, for the pollution created by the fossil fuels they sell in VT. The revenue from the pollution tax could be used for efficiency programs and rebates for Vermonters who invest in cleaner technologies. The revenue could also be used to reduce other taxes Vermonters currently pay—all Vermonters and Vermont businesses will get a tax cut, with low-income Vermonters receiving an additional rebate.
      • For more details, visit “Our Plan”.
  • Are life-cycle emissions included in the pollution tax?
    • Answer: The pollution tax would only apply to the carbon content of the fuels. While increasing studies are uncovering the cradle-to-grave emissions and impacts of fossil fuels, it would be too complicated to include such data for this policy. The good news is that the “Clean Fuel Standard” also under discussion will shine a light on the true costs of fuel sources ranging from tar sands oil, to fracked gas, and more.

Saving Vermonters Money by Saving Energy Back to top

  • How will a price on carbon pollution save Vermonters money?
    • Answer: Solutions that reduce Vermonters’ dependence on fossil fuels save money. Plain and simple. There are volumes of information on the fact that using less energy saves money (in addition to plain common sense). What’s news to many now is that switching to clean energy also saves money.
      • Weatherization:
        •  Average job cuts heating bill by 25-30%, costs $8,000
      • Cold climate air-source heat pumps:
        • Can cut fossil fuel use 60-80%+, energy bills by over 40%
        • Generally costs $4-10,000 per home
      • Solar:
        • After incentives, a typical solar PV system that costs $15,000 will pay for itself in 10 years
        • After the initial 10 year period, the homeowner will enjoy total energy savings over the next 15 years of $33,000, plus see an increase in the value of their home.

Tax Cuts and Rebates Back to top

  • How will the tax cuts or rebates work?
    • Answer: Energy Independent’s Vermont goal is to create a policy that maximizes pollution reductions, maximizes economic benefit, and minimizes potential hardship to Vermonters, particularly low-income residents. While these decisions are ultimately made by legislators, here’s our proposed use of pollution tax funds that would help accomplish these goals:
      • 90% of the revenue is returned in the form of rebates and other tax relief:
        • Refundable tax credits for individuals (flat per capita figure for every adult resident)
        • Corporate income tax rate reductions for businesses
        • Per-employee rebates for non-taxable entities (e.g., non-profits, schools, municipalities)
      • 10% of the revenue is invested in helping Vermonters cut their energy bills and fossil fuel use through energy efficiency and clean energy. That includes:
        • Energy efficiency solutions for homes and businesses (weatherization, cold climate heat pumps, etc.)
        • Low-income weatherization
        • Renewable energy (solar tax credits, etc.)
        • Transportation efficiency (transit, carpooling, walk infrastructure, efficient vehicles, etc.)
      • Give special attention to low-income Vermonters to address regressivity concerns
        • Additional rebate for low-income Vermonters
        • Dedicated funding to supplement Weatherization Assistance ProgramScreen Shot 2015-02-26 at 5.10.24 PM

Low-Income Back to top

  • How will you protect those Vermonters already living paycheck to paycheck from higher energy costs?
    • Answer: Energy Independent Vermont’s proposal, crafted in partnership with advocates from the anti-poverty community, proactively seeks to invest in programs that help low-income Vermonters save money by reducing dependence on fossil fuels while mitigating disproportionately harmful effects of the tax by providing additional rebates to low-income residents.
      • Read, in their own words, about why anti-poverty advocates are active supporters of EIV.
    • Low-income residents are also most affected by dependence on fossil fuels. Without the credit or cash reserves to pre-buy at the lowest rates, they often pay the highest prices for their heating fuel. In light of the above, it’s important not only that all Vermonters, including those with low incomes, be part of the solution presented in the proposed pollution tax, but also that no one suffer undue hardship paying it.

The Economy Back to top

  • How will a price on carbon pollution benefit Vermont’s economy?
    • Answer: Today, fossil fuel dependence is holding Vermont’s economy back. Just think about it—we don’t have coal mines or fracking, and we don’t have any refineries. That means we have to import any fossil fuels we use, and all of the dollars we use to pay for them go straight out of state. So, how do we keep those dollars working here? We help Vermonters save money by switching to clean energy (like going solar) and weatherize their homes (to save on heat). The money we’re all able to save can go to other things, like going out to dinner or shopping. That’s why an economic analysis found that the higher the tax on polluters and the higher the investments in Vermont’s Energy Independence Fund, the greater the economic benefits!
  • How much per gallon of regular gas or heating oil would the pollution fee be?
    • Answer: A fee on pollution is designed to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for the pollution that’s emitted from the fuels that they sell, but it’ll be up to the state legislature to assign the exact amount of the tax (for example, if lawmakers decided to impose a tax of $50 per ton of pollution emitted, then that would mean potentially an 8 cent increase in a gallon of gas and 10 cents for a gallon of heating oil for the first year the tax goes into effect). It’s important to remember that the tax would phase in, meaning it would give time for Vermonters to adjust—and take advantage of the Energy Independence Fund, which would help Vermonters save money by switching to cleaner technologies that don’t pollute. For more information about the economic benefits, check out our Explainer.
  • How many and what type of jobs would be created as a result of carbon pricing?
    • Answer: Clean energy creates jobs. It’s just that simple. Every four minutes in the United States, another solar panel is installed. And that kind of work can’t be outsourced! So if we make investments in helping Vermonters take advantage of cheaper clean energy, we’ll stimulate growth all over the economy. For example, our plan would produce around 500 construction jobs per year (think: increases in solar installation and weatherization work).But that’s not all. In addition to the economic infusion from the many dollars Vermonters are saving on fuel bills, our proposal contains targeted tax cuts which will help drive dollars into job‐creating sectors – like manufacturing, agriculture and retail. That’d help grow our computer and electronics sector by $25 million and raise Vermonters incomes by $135 million in 10 years. For more information about the economic benefits, check out our Explainer.
  • What if people cross the border to buy fuels out of state?
    • Answer: Investing in Vermont’s energy independence and cutting Vermonters’ taxes is good for our economy and great for the environment—if those investments are funded by a tax on fossil fuel companies. In fact, an economic study that looked at this “cross-border effect” found that even if a handful of people cross the border to buy fuels out-of-state (which, when you look at New Hampshire’s gas prices, we bet they’re doing already) Vermont’s economy won’t see the impact. After all, an Energy Independence Fund could help thousands of Vermonters save half on their heating bill (by installing clean energy technology), infuse job-creating sectors with millions of dollars (like the computer and electronics sector), and taking control of our energy future.

Outside of Vermont Back to top

  • Who supports taxing carbon pollution?
    • Answer: Economists across the political spectrum – from Bush’s Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson to author and economist Thomas Friedman – support carbon pollution taxes for a couple key reasons. First reason is the basic principle to tax “bads” (i.e. pollution), not “goods” (i.e. work). Second is the basic principle to “internalize externalities” – or in non-economist speech, if a good/service causes problems (aka externalities) to the public, the cost of that problem should be included in the price of the good/service (aka internalized).
  • Why Vermont, rather than a regional or federal level carbon pollution price?
    • Asnwer: To make a dent in Vermont’s carbon pollution, and to do so in a way that benefits the economy and is equitable to all Vermonters, we can and should pursue a state-level carbon pollution tax. Add to that the fact that oil and gas companies influence in Congress has only increased since climate-change deniers like Sen. Inhofe have taken control of key Energy and Environment committee roles. Vermonters have a chance to save money and be among the first states to benefit from the clean energy economy that a carbon pollution tax will boost.