FACT CHECK: Lt. Gov. Debate 10/9/18

Energy Independent Vermont is a nonpartisan, non-profit coalition. We don’t endorse candidates or tell Vermonters how to vote. We can, however, point out when candidates for office stray from the truth, and in the recent Vermont Public Radio/Vermont Public Television debate, Representative Don Turner strayed from the truth.


Before getting into three specifics, let’s point out a couple of facts from earlier this week:

  • Wednesday was the hottest October 10th in recorded history in Chittenden County — where the debate took place;
  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a dire report (by 91 co-authors and review editors from 40 countries who included over 6,000 scientific references in their report) calling on political leaders across the globe to act decisively to reduce carbon pollution or face “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”;
  • The Nobel Prize for Economics was awarded to William Nordhaus of Yale for “integrating climate change into long-run macroeconomic analysis”; and
  • And ExxonMobil — yes, that ExxonMobil — pledged $1 million to lobby in favor of carbon pricing.

It’s clear that climate change is a monumental challenge … and that there are solutions … and that those solutions aren’t a secret. But Don Turner still got his facts wrong.

Fiction #1: Don Turner – “We’ve seen different proposals. Last year we saw the ESSEX proposal which was an 88 cent tax on gas … all fossil fuels … for Vermonters.”

Fact: Mr. Turner is incorrect. While legislators who care about addressing climate change have offered numerous proposals, Mr. Turner is not accurately portraying the ESSEX Plan. The Economy-Strengthening Strategic Energy eXchange (ESSEX) Plan is a progressive and innovative economic development proposal crafted by Vermont business leaders and low-income advocates to:

  • Take advantage of Vermont’s low-carbon electricity by lowering electricity bills for every Vermont household and business;
  • Provide additional assistance to low-income and rural Vermonters to speed the transition to clean energy; and
  • Harness the power of the free market to reduce climate pollution and help the state meet its climate and clean energy goals exactly as Nobel Prize-winning economists have proposed.

Once implemented the ESSEX Plan will help Vermonters save money on energy and health care costs, and we would have the lowest effective electricity rates in the Northeast. To fund these improvements, the plan proposes charging fossil fuel companies a gradually rising fee for climate pollution and returning all of the proceeds to Vermonters in the form of lower electricity bills and refundable rebates. The oil and gas companies would be charged less than 5 cents a gallon in the first year of the program, and the fee would rise each year until reaching 35 cents a gallon after eight years, then rise with the rate of inflation after that.

Read the full ESSEX Plan on the Seventh Generation website here.

FICTION #2: Don Turner – “Vermont has done a good job at reducing our carbon footprint.”

FACT: Carbon pollution is on the rise in Vermont. According to the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, greenhouse gas emissions are, in fact, 16% higher now than they were in 1990 and we are accelerating in the wrong direction.

FICTION #3: Don Turner – “If Vermont stopped using all its cars, all its heating systems that use fossil fuels, it wouldn’t change the trajectory going forward.”

FACT: Reducing climate pollution in Vermont would absolutely impact the trajectory we are on. Obviously, Vermont cannot solve climate change alone, but Rep. Turner is incorrect in his assertion that what we do doesn’t matter. It matters a lot. Reducing pollution will take a serious effort by the international community, by leaders at the federal level, by Vermont policymakers like the lieutenant governor and every one of us.

These facts matter, and the stakes are just too high to allow candidates to spread misinformation this fall. If you hear or see of other egregious errors regarding climate and clean energy this fall, please let us know.