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

The Economy

The E.S.S.E.X Plan

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.

The Economy 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.
  • 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.

    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 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.

The E.S.S.E.X. Plan Back to top

  • What exactly is the ESSEX Plan?
    • Answer: ESSEX is an acronym for Economy-Strengthening Strategic Energy eXchange. It also incorporates rebates for rural Vermonters, making it an economic development plan that will work for both Essex Junction and Essex County.
  • How much will this increase the cost of fuel?
    • Answer: When fully implemented after eight years (at $40/ton) the ESSEX plan will add approximately 36 cents on a gallon of gasoline, 40 cents on a gallon of diesel or home heating oil, and 24 cents on a gallon of propane or a CCF of natural gas.
  • Why does the low and moderate income rebate cut off at 400%? Does that include essentially all but the top income earners?
    • Answer: 400% of federal poverty is about $90,000/year for a family of four. That covers most of Vermont’s working families and retirees. It’s also important to note that the plan proposes a “sloped” rebate, with lower income Vermonters receiving a greater additional rebate than middle-income Vermonters.
  • How are low-income folks expected to transition? Even with an additional rebate, the cost of transitioning to electric energy (heat/transportation) is prohibitory.
    • Answer: The ESSEX Plan is part of an overall suite of climate and clean energy policies, many that already exist and some that are still needed. Programs like Low-income Weatherization, Efficiency Vermont’s work to get multi-family affordable housing weatherized, the low-income EV rebates several utilities have implemented through Vermont’s Energy Innovation Program, and GMP’s recent announcement of a low-income community solar array are all examples of work Vermont is doing to make the transition off of fossil fuels possible for every Vermonter. Is that work enough? Absolutely not – and the organizations that make up EIV are committed to advancing policies to further that goal.
  • I pay substantially more in gas/heating bills on a monthly basis than I do on my electric bill. Will this be a net loss for me?
    • Answer: No. The ESSEX Plan means fossil fuel prices will rise slightly, but electricity prices will fall by more – and again, low-income and rural Vermonters will receive additional rebates over and above the electric rate cut all Vermont ratepayers will receive. For most families this will be a net positive. In addition, the more you can reduce your dependence on fossil fuels the less you’ll pay in pollution fees.
  • How will this impact renters whose electric bill is included in their rent?
    • Answer: The ESSEX Plan can and should be strengthened as legislation to ensure that renters and other Vermonters who don’t have an electric bill would get the share of their ESSEX rebate that is due to them by applying for the rebate separately.
  • Why does the plan include an additional rebate for rural Vermonters?
    • Answer: Because of long commutes and older housing stock, rural Vermonters often pay more for transportation and heating fuels than Vermonters in less rural areas. The ESSEX Plan recognizes this reality and offers an additional rebate to support low to moderate income rural Vermonters as they transition to low carbon heating and transportation options.
  • How will you determine who is considered “rural” and who isn’t?
    • Answer: The ESSEX plan uses a US Census definition of rural. The legislature may ultimately settle on a different definition, but what’s important is that working-class, rural Vermonters are prioritized with additional rebates beyond the electric rate cut all Vermonter ratepayers will see.
  • Vermont is bordered by other states, most notably New Hampshire, where fuels costs are already substantially lower. Won’t Vermonters who live on the border gas up in New Hampshire and reap the benefit of lower electric bills?
    • Answer: Maybe. But legislators in New Hampshire are planning to propose a carbon pricing bill at the same rate. Being NH, that bill may not gain traction right away, but as people across the river start to see how carbon pricing benefits the Vermont economy they will likely follow. Additionally, Massachusetts is making quite a bit of progress on their own carbon pricing legislation, as are other Northeastern states.
  • If this plan makes electricity so cheap, won’t fewer individuals be inclined to go solar or otherwise adopt renewable energy to zero-out their bills?
    • Answer: As Vermonters switch to electricity for their heating and transportation needs with heat pumps and electric vehicles, going renewable is going to be of greater interest than ever, allowing Vermonters to use renewable sources to cover a larger portion or all of their energy needs. Any “disincentive” to go solar in the short term because of smaller electric bills will be more than made up for in the long run. The ESSEX plan is also being proposed in the context of Vermont’s Renewable Energy Standard, which requires utilities to source more and more of their electricity from renewable sources – including around 500 MW of small and medium sized in-state renewables by 2032.
  • Won’t cheaper electricity mean people will use more electricity, and will have less incentive to make efficiency upgrades, conserve, or otherwise reduce electricity use?
    • Answer: The ESSEX Plan reduces rates. It doesn’t eliminate them. An efficiency measure that could save money before the ESSEX Plan will still save money after the ESSEX Plan. That being said, all things being equal lower functional electric rates would mean less efficiency work being done. That’s one of the reasons the members of the EIV coalition are separately working hard to boost efficiency, by expanding Vermont’s appliance efficiency standards and defending and expanding Efficiency Vermont’s budget, for starters. It’s also important to note that this plan encourages people to transition off of polluting fossil fuels and onto Vermont’s clean electricity for their heating and transportation. Every fossil fuel heating system or vehicle that’s replaced with an electric alternative cuts total energy use for that heat or transportation by 25-50%, even when taking into account all the energy needed to generate the electricity used.
  • How will this affect existing solar customers?
    • Answer: For net metering customers whose bill drops below zero you would get a check back for the amount of the ESSEX rebate, including any low income or rural adders. It’s also worth noting that the ESSEX rebate for net metering customers would be based on total electric usage, regardless of the production of a Vermonter’s net metering system.
  • Will this plan incentivize an increase in natural gas and spur investments in natural gas infrastructure?
    • Answer: Carbon pricing policies generally price at the burner tip, not for life cycle emissions. The ESSEX plan is no different in this regard. One critical way the ESSEX plan is different is that it makes efficient low-carbon options like cold climate heatpumps, EVs, and geothermal more financially attractive. With electric heating options far cheaper than any fossil fuel, few Vermonters will be interested in switching from oil to gas, making any future proposals to build out gas pipelines financially untenable. In the electric sector, with Vermont’s renewable electricity requirement, Vermont utilities need to provide their customers with 75% renewable energy by 2032 (55% today); natural gas simply doesn’t qualify.
  • Why isn’t methane pollution priced in this plan?
    • Answer: Methane is a greenhouse gas that is the primary component of natural gas. While methane emissions aren’t directly priced under the ESSEX Plan, natural gas is priced based on the CO2 emitted when it is burned, like every other fossil
      fuel. “Fugitive” methane (the methane that escapes during the extraction and transportation of natural gas) isn’t. Every plan has to balance politics and policy. The ESSEX Plan focuses on pricing the main driver of climate change – CO2 emissions – in a fair and equitable way that would benefit all Vermonters and prioritize the working class and rural Vermonters. There’s no reason that a similar approach can’t be taken to address methane and other greenhouse gases in the future.
  • Gov. Scott has already voiced opposition to carbon pricing legislation. Why/how is this different?
    • Answer: Gov. Scott asked Vermonters to come up with solutions that strengthen the Vermont economy, prioritize the most vulnerable, and reduce carbon pollution. The ESSEX Plan does all three. It fits every single requirement and goal of the Governor’s executive order forming the Climate Action Commission, and we’re taking him at his word that he’s interested in achieving those goals. That he needs convincing is no surprise – nor is it a reason to shrink from the challenge of addressing Vermont’s carbon pollution.
  • What is “dyed-diesel” and why is it exempt under the ESSEX Plan?
    • Answer: The ESSEX Plan is designed to encourage individuals, families, and businesses to shift to readily available substitutes for fossil fuel based heating and transportation products. Unfortunately, there are currently no realistic substitutes for farm equipment and heavy machinery, which is what dyed diesel is primarily used to fuel.
  • What about aviation fuel?
    • Answer: Federal policy preempts aviation fuel being included in a state level emissions pricing system.
  • Why is electricity that is generated from fossil fuels exempt under the ESSEX Plan?
    • Answer: Most of the electricity consumed in Vermont (over 55%) is from renewable sources – and Vermont’s Renewable Energy Standard already ensures that Vermont’s electricity mix will be getting cleaner every year. By 2032, every utility in Vermont will be required to provide their customers with a minimum of 75% renewable electricity. Furthermore, the electricity consumed in Vermont that does come from fossil fuels is already priced under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
  • Burning wood (“biomass”) also creates CO2 – why isn’t it charged for that under the plan?
    • Answer: Biomass is exempt under the ESSEX plan because, if harvested sustainably (including allowing regrowth), utilized at a sustainable rate, and used efficiently, over time it is carbon neutral. That is, all of the CO2 emitted by burning wood can be reabsorbed through forest growth. If and how fast that happens depends on whether an area of forest is cleared for development or allowed to regrow, other forestry practices, and how efficiently that biomass is used. Inefficient use of biomass can result in more than three quarters of the energy in the wood being wasted (that happens in particular when wood is burned for electricity and none of the waste heat is captured and used). On the other hand, efficiency levels can be higher than 80% in modern, advanced wood heating. That is the type of biomass use we should advance as a state going forward, and that’s what many EIV partners have advocated for.
    • The ESSEX plan will advance electrification of the heating sector more than it will
      advance biomass use, as it drives down the price of one (clean electricity) and not the other. Does it make biomass for heating look better relative to oil? Absolutely. Does electrification look better than either? Also absolutely. EIV would expect this plan to drive some increase in biomass (and biofuels) for heat, but result in a much larger increase in electrification. This plan is the only carbon pricing plan we are aware of that can say that.
  • By driving down the functional cost of electricity, does this plan pick winners and losers as far as renewable technologies go?
    • Answer: All renewable energy wins under the ESSEX plans, and the use of all types of fossil fuels will be reduced. As the cost of the damage fossil fuels are doing to our climate is incorporated into their price, all non-fossil fuels will look better and better, financially. Renewables that generate electricity have the added benefit under the ESSEX plan of being driven down in cost, recognizing what a critical part of the solution electrification is for the transportation and heating sectors. So, to reiterate, every type of renewable energy will do better once fossil fuels are priced to reflect the immense damage they are doing to our climate – no ifs, ands, or buts.

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.