Put price on carbon pollution

Opinion: Vermont State Representative Mary Sullivan

Mary Sullivan headshotWith the astounding changes in climate occurring all around us (extreme storms, floods, droughts, etc.), I feel we must all be doing everything we can to reverse these changes so that our children and grandchildren (and ourselves considering how fast these changes are taking place) can continue to live on a planet that is able to provide for us. One thing we can all work on is to reduce our emissions of carbon pollution — our carbon footprint — because adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere is what is driving climate change.

When I returned to the Vermont House this past January after a 14 year hiatus, climate was a big issue on my mind. I’ve always felt a moral obligation to do my part to protect the planet. After lots of discussions with my constituents, businesses, concerned citizens and other legislators, I introduced H.412, a carbon pollution tax bill, along with Rep. David Deen from Westminster and 25 other cosponsors. The bill would impose an excise tax on the carbon pollution created by fossil fuels, phased in over 10 years, and would return 90 percent of the dollars raised through the tax to the taxpayer and to businesses in the form of reductions in other taxes.

Ten percent of the revenue would be used to fund weatherization, transportation efficiency and other programs that would help Vermonters reduce their energy bills. Vermont spends nearly $2 billion annually to heat our buildings and get people and goods where they need to go. Eight out of 10 of those dollars go out of state, much as profit to big oil companies. By helping people reduce their spending on fossil fuels, these Vermont dollars stay here and help to further stimulate the local economy. When money is spent on weatherization rather than on fossil fuels to keep our homes warm local contractors get a boost, which helps grow Vermont businesses.

A well-crafted carbon pollution tax would significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, grow jobs and grow the state’s economy. It would also ensure that low-income Vermonters benefit, helping them lower their fossil fuel use and delivering an additional rebate to low-income households.

A carbon pollution tax is not a new or untested idea. British Columbia has had such a tax since 2008 when its conservative, forward-thinking premiere instituted it. Since then British Columbia has cut other taxes to the tune of a billion dollars a year, and reduced its fossil fuel use by 16 percent while emissions in the rest of Canada have grown. It’s been called “an environmental and economic success story.” In fact, the BC economy is doing quite well — better than the rest of Canada — since the carbon pollution tax was implemented. Sweden, a traditionally innovative nation, introduced a carbon pollution tax in 1991, and now its emissions are 20 percent lower than what they otherwise would have been, which are far lower per capita than emissions in the U.S. There are many other countries and regions that have imposed such a tax to their economic and environmental benefit.

Professor Janet E. Milne explains Carbon Pollution Tax 101

We are in a time of transition whether we like it or not. The fossil fuel age is coming to an end. While it has provided us with a quality of life unimaginable in terms of material possessions it has also polluted our air and water and increased respiratory illnesses. It has also helped to catalyze extreme weather events, like Irene, which came with a nearly $1 billion price tag here in Vermont alone, and pain and suffering for hundreds of Vermonters. This cannot go on.

When we look back in history we can see that it has not been the “same ole, same ole” thinkers who got us to good places, but rather the people who could think outside the box and envision a changing future. They then would start making the needed changes in order to be well situated when inevitable transitions came to be. Rather than ignoring science and hoping for the best despite the odds, let’s get moving, start reducing our reliance on dirty fossil fuel and help ensure the short- and long-term economic health of people’s pocketbooks and the planet. Vermont should join other provinces and nations which are benefiting from putting a price on carbon pollution, and investing in their people and their future.

Rep. Mary Sullivan, D-Burlington, is a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources and Energy.

The Power of Place – Documentary

Join me at the viewing of this documentary film on the complexity of the Northern Pass Power Line Project

The Power of Place at 6 pm on May 28, 2015 at the Montshire Museum in Norwich Vermont. Doors open at 5:30. A panel discussion with the filmmaker and experts will follow the film.

Free and open to the public, this documentary is sponsored by the Sierra Club Upper Valley Group

“We’re the stewards of this beautiful land…”

Hydro Quebec and Eversource Energy propose to build a 187 mile transmission line that will bisect the state of New Hampshire. Conservation photographer and filmmaker Jerry Monkman examines its impact on the White Mountain National ForestThe Appalachian National Scenic Trail, and the Great North Woods Region and interviews experts and residents about the effect on their landscapes.

Co-sponsored by:

Community Net Metering in NH & VT

Presentations, panel discussion, and Q&A on net metering

The 8th annual Upper Valley Energy Committee Roundtable required a change in venue due to it’s growing size!  This year 98 attendees gathered on April 28th at the Montshire Museum in Norwich Vermont to convene their largest gathering yet!  The attendees represented a record breaking 37 Energy Committees, 3 Regional Planning Commissions, over 20 for profit and NGO energy businesses, and a representative from the Office of Senator Bernie Sanders.

Speakers included:

Kate Epsen, New Hampshire Sustainable Energy Association;

Joey Miller, Vermont Natural Resource Council;

Lynn Benander, Coop Power

Rooftop solar production in California could provide three times the need

New study proves solar is “alternative” energy source for California

Credit: Solar Energy Industries Association
Credit: Solar Energy Industries Association

Nature Climate Change found that California could produce three times the electricity they need simply by building rooftop solar on existing developed land in cities and towns across the state.

Read the story at Nature Climate Change.

Solar Road Exceeding Expectations

Six months in, solar road surprises developers

Panels have already produced enough electricity to run a home for a year. We didn’t “expect a yield as high as this so quickly.”

credit: Solaroad

“If we translate this to an annual yield, we expect more than the 70kwh per square meter per year,” Sten de Wit, a spokesman for the project — dubbed SolaRoad — told Al Jazeera America. “We predicted [this] as an upper limit in the laboratory stage. We can therefore conclude that it was a successful first half year.”

Read the article at ThinkProgress.com