It’s time to charge for carbon pollution

Commentary by David Ellenbogen

vice chair of the Sierra Club Vermont Chapter

blowing cellulose
Re-insulating homes means they’ll use energy more efficiently and make them much more comfortable to live in.

Vermont history is replete with examples of Vermonters recognizing when it is time to change business as usual. For example, years ago burning trash – long a Vermont tradition – was recognized as a practice that was harmful both to the environment and to the health of our citizens. Banning the practice was a common sense solution. More recently, we required proper disposal of used tires and motor oil.

Despite these important steps, today’s biggest single contribution to air pollution in Vermont – the burning of fossil fuels – continues unchecked. The coalition known as Energy Independent Vermont, of which the Vermont Sierra Club and its 3,000 members is proudly a member, believes the time has come to account for the carbon pollution released by burning fossil fuels. The environmental damage resulting from this pollution has a monetary cost, and it is not small. Prices for a ton of airborne carbon pollution (including estimates from Exxon Mobil and the U.S. government) range from $40 to $109 (source). This is money we are all already tacitly paying in the form of a degraded environment and increased health risks.

Imagine a neighbor who, accidentally or not, pollutes a stream, pond or aquifer that impacts your day-to-day life. Your access to safe drinking water, a clean place to swim, healthy fish to catch and maybe even the value of your home would likely be negatively impacted. Would you not expect the polluter to “make it right?” The notion of “if you make a mess, you have the responsibility to clean it up” is a Vermont value that has already been applied in several environmental arenas. Why then permit those responsible for the carbon pollution that damages our air, climate and health to walk away scot-free?

Our Legislature has a golden opportunity to do right, not just by the environment, but by the economy as well.

This is money that we are already spending in the form of environmental degradation. It is as if a dirty neighbor spills toxins on a shoreline and the neighborhood pays for cleanup in order to preserve property values. At what point should the polluter be held responsible for the damage? Some will argue that a tax on carbon pollution – in the form of a fee per ton, paid at the distribution level – will simply be passed on to consumers in the form of higher fuel prices. But what if the fees collected by the state, at the distributor level, are returned to Vermonters in a way that (a) encourages conservation, (b) makes adjustments for household income, and (c) pays for energy efficiency? Such a carbon pollution tax would benefit Vermont in several ways (source: based on material from Regional Economic Models, Inc.).

1. Funds, ranging upward from $35 million per year in 2018, would be put into tax cuts, green jobs, home weatherization, energy improvements, and would include special compensation for those most in need.

2. The money we are already spending on pollution-related damage would be recouped from those responsible – the out-of-state oil companies that take Vermont money and cart it out of state.

3. A new incentive for cleaner transportation would be created.

4. Cleaner sources of heat, drawing on Vermont’s relatively clean sources of electricity, could be promoted, with rebates for Vermonters and Vermont businesses most in need.

5. Much of the nearly $2 billion per year that Vermonters spend on fuel for heating and transportation – only to see it go out of state – would remain in state.

6. Future generations would recognize Vermont’s lead in creating a green economy. The Made in Vermont label would become even more valuable.

Our Legislature has a golden opportunity to do right, not just by the environment, but by the economy as well. Rebates structured to compensate low-income Vermonters and reward those who burn little or no fuel can be structured in a manner that is fair and forward thinking. A polluter-funded Energy Independence Fund that supports weatherization, efficiency, clean energy, and green jobs is an idea whose time has come. Let’s reaffirm the Vermont belief that those who make a mess should be held accountable for paying the cleaning bill. The time is now.

This makes it official – President vetoes Keystone XL pipeline

President Obama sends message to the Senate floor

First of many vetoes to come

PBS Newshour’s Gwen Ifill gives a quick overview of the pipeline

What the veto means for Keystone’s future – two perspectives

An almost comical response from Bloomberg

”The president’s veto of the Keystone jobs bill is a national embarrassment,” said the top Republican in the House of Representatives, John Boehner.

”It is not a question of if this project will be approved; it is a matter of when,” said a statement from Canadian Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford.

”We will continue to strongly advocate for this job-creating project.”



Will the Canadians double down on its dirty tar sands?

Read this piece by Tim Dickson in Rolling Stone

Victor Juhasz


Supporters of the President’s veto





Oil train derailment in Canada

Unknown amount of oil was spilled from 29 of the 100 oil cars

Seven cars still burning 24 hours after the crash

Google Map
Google Map

Late Saturday night, a train carrying crude oil derailed in northern Ontario. Twenty-nine of the 100 cars derailed spilling an unknown amount of oil. Seven of the cars caught fire at the time of the crash and were still burning on Sunday afternoon.

“The derailment occurred in a remote wooded area and there are no reports of injuries. There is a fire at the scene,” Patrick Waldron said in an email early Sunday.

This is going to be hard to clean up

I went to Google Maps to see where Timmins Ontario was. The satellite view shows lots of small lakes, ponds and streams. That does not bode well for the area. Sometimes I think we forget that there are damages to an area when something like this spill happens. It will never be the same again.

Another derailment in West Virginia too

Lawrence Messina, Public Safety spokesperson, said responders at the scene said the tanker is leaking crude oil into the Kanawha River in Fayette County. Messina said at least one and possibly more tanker cars went into the river. He also said the derailment sparked a house fire.



Remember Lac-Magantic Canada?

About a year ago the small town of Lac-Megantic exploded and will never be the same. The people from the town are interviewed in this video and bring the horror to life. This was a town of about 6,000 people. It will never be the same.

“Boom: North America’s Explosive Oil-by-Rail Problem”

“My town, it just disappeared…”

On July 6, 2013, a train hauling two million gallons of crude oil exploded in the Canadian town of Lac-Megantic, killing 47 people. It took two days to put out the fire and devastated the small community.

That catastrophe was in part an American story. For five years, a boom in oil production has been taking place in the Bakkan Shale region of North Dakota. Oil from the Bakkan is transported across the U.S. and Canada by rail to refineries on the coasts – it was one of these trains that derailed in Lac-Megantic.

The sharp increase in domestic oil production has created jobs, decreased economic vulnerability to turmoil in the Middle East, and lowered prices of gasoline and home heating oil.

But there’s another side to this story…

Big Oil Purposefully Stands in the Way of Renewable Future

Fossil fuel industry is rapidly divesting from renewables

Choosing the dark side, fossil fuel doubles down on carbon

Published on Jul 12, 2013
The following interview originally aired on the July 14th, 2013 episode of Ring of Fire on Free Speech TV. The fossil fuel industry has a stranglehold on American energy production, and not surprisingly, they are also the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the country. Polls show that the American public is more than ready for alternative energy, so why are we still almost completely dependent on fossil fuels? Ring of Fire guest host Farron Cousins tries to answer that question with author and journalist Antonia Juhasz.

Watch Ring of Fire every Sunday at 12pm Eastern/9am Pacific on Free Speech TV!

Follow more of their stories at Ring of Fire

Learn more about Ring of Fire Radio News

Antonia Juhasz on the web

Antonia Juhasz’s website along with her bio

Antonia Juhasz on Twitter. Her short bio says, “Oil & Energy analyst, journalist, & author of The Tyranny of Oil; Black Tide: the Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill; and The Bush Agenda.” With over 7,200 Tweets, it’s clear that she shares great content.

Tweets by @AntoniaJuhasz


Many great articles by Antonia Juhasz on Huffington Post starting in 2006 and the most recent article is from 2012.

Antonia Juhasz allows people to “Follow” her posts without being friends. Click here to “Follow” Antonia on Facebook.


AllEarth Solar Trackers in Action

SolarSense completes development and financing of 2.15 MW of AllEarth Solar Tracker projects

AllEarth State Tracker projectI found this piece at “pv magazine” – pv magazine shares independent, technology-focused reporting, covering the latest PV news, topical technological trends and worldwide market developments.

I read it to stay up to day on all the latest developments in solar pv.

SolarSense announces the commissioning and financing of 2.15 MW of net metering projects utilizing American-made AllEarth Solar Trackers.

SolarSense, a provider of clean, reliable and affordable power for commercial and industrial scale customers in the U.S., announced the commissioning and financing of 2.15 MW of net metering projects utilizing American-made AllEarth Solar Trackers.

The five solar tracking projects, all net metered in Vermont, were commissioned and placed in service in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Among the projects were three, 500 kW projects for the State of Vermont, providing solar energy at below market rates to correctional facilities and state office buildings.

Two additional projects are providing solar energy to three prominent Vermont businesses – Danforth Pewter, Gardener’s Supply, and Wake Robin. All projects are retaining the Renewable Energy Credits associated with the energy production.

The five projects were all constructed utilizing AllEarth Solar Trackers, manufactured in Williston, Vt. by AllEarth Renewables, which track the sun throughout the day to maximize energy production. The award-winning trackers are utilized across the U.S. for residential and commercial scale solar projects.

The 24-panel trackers are equipped with SunPower solar panels, the most efficient solar photovoltaic (PV) panel commercially available. SunPower Corp. (NASDAQ: SPWR) is a leading solar technology and global energy services provider based in Silicon Valley, California.

Building on the success of 2014, SolarSense and AllEarth will develop, construct, and finance 6MW of net metering projects in 2015-2016, largely for State of Vermont facilities and their power needs.

“The optimized design pairing of ultra-high efficiency SunPower solar panels with the reliable AllEarth dual axis tracker to harvest the sun has proven to be a winning combination,” said Chris Fraga, founder and CEO of SolarSense LLC, the project developer. “We celebrate the State of Vermont’s commitment to sourcing solar generated power through long term Power Purchase Agreements, and the commitment to sustainability by the teams at Danforth Pewter, Gardener’s Supply, and Wake Robin.”

“We are excited to be working with SolarSense as a financing partner. Their expertise in financing renewable energy projects around the country will help us continue our national growth,” said David Blittersdorf, president and CEO of AllEarth Renewables. “By utilizing our tracking technology, we can maximize production, boosting the total solar savings for both the off-taking customers and the economic returns for the owners of each project.”