Posted by Charity on February 22nd, 2007

This morning, the Burlington Free Press ran a story about one of the bills being proposed by the Vermont Senate as part of their global warming initiative.

The bill is still being shaped in the Senate Natural Resources Committee, but the gist is this: An efficiency charge would be assessed on all heating fuels, just as it now is on electric bills. The money would pay to help Vermonters make their homes and businesses more energy-efficient.

I must say that this article gave me pause given that the news last week was that fuel assistance programs were running out of money already and we are still in February (a mighty cold one, too, I might add). Odd that the Senate would propose to add to the cost of heating our homes.

The Free Press leads in with a quick look at the pro and con sides to this proposal.

Vermonters could save money, make their homes more comfortable and create jobs in the process, according to supporters of proposed legislation designed to enhance energy efficiency.

The trouble with it, detractors say, is that everybody’s heating bills would increase to pay for it. There are other ways to achieve the same goal, they contend.

I really have no problem with energy efficiency. It is long overdue. In fact, I wish my landlord was a little more mindful of energy efficiency, given that I am the one paying the gas bill for my drafty apartment.

The bottom line is that Vermonters are tapped out. We don’t have the money to pay more for our heating fuel. Many of us are barely making ends meet as it is.

I’m not trying to be alarmist. I am trying to be a realist.

My downstairs neighbor was borrowing my vacuum the other day and she was worried about how she will pay her gas bill. Mine just arrived today, and I can see why she was so upset. We keep our thermostat set at 65 and our bill is still much higher than it was this time last year.

Don’t get me wrong, I would never propose that we base policy on my personal budgetary woes, or those of my hard-working neighbor, but I think that we are less the exception and more the rule.

There are no new sources of revenue that the legislature will be able to tap into. The money all comes from the same set of pockets and those pockets are fast becoming empty.

It is time for the Democrats to decide which things they want to keep, and which ones they will have to let go. We cannot afford to fund their entire utopian vision for Vermont.

4 Responses to “Paying for Efficiency”

  1. I see your point, but this isn’t about a “utopian vision” —

    If you think energy costs are high now, just wait until the Hydro Quebec and Entergy contracts come up for renewal.

    To stave off another spike in energy costs, we need to find ways to stem demand (i.e. conserve energy.)

    Vermonters waste tons of energy — your drafty apt is a good example — It would be useful to be able to use the carrot and the stick to get that guy to seal up the place. It would save you … and tons of other renters … a lot of money.

    We need to work together on this. It isn’t about “tax n’ spend” Dems and “Republicans who are in bed with the big energy companies” — it’s about Vermonters comming together to help solve the problem of expensive energy.

  2. Good points, anonymous contributor.

    I agree, but there is also a limited amount of money to work with – a finite amount. If this is priority, cut something else.


    We can’t go about believing that the government can generate enough revenue to solve all of our problems.

    This solution won’t do. We need a better solution; one that will not require a regressive tax on a life-or-death necessity.

    (This is one of those odd times when I resort to Progressive lingo.)

  3. Right now we can pay a little to fix up our houses and get energy efficient light bulbs etc … or we can pay a LOT later on higher energy bills and more nuclear waste and more coal burning plants.

    Your answer seems to be “ignore the problem and it’ll go away”.

    Others are saying, “ignore the problem now, and it’s going to be much, much more expensive later.”

    These “others” seem to have a much more conservative philosophy. Conserving energy + Conserving money = conservative thinking.

    Ignoring the problem isn’t conservative.

  4. First a snarky comment…
    Let’s tax food as a means of fighting the obesity epedemic.

    My house is fairly efficient, I’ve replaced leaky windows and exterior doors. I supplement with wood. I turn off electric lights when they are not needed. Why in blue blazes should I pay another damn tax? Look at the extra tax we pay on gasoline that is supposed to go for road and bridge work. That fund gets raided all the time and the roads and bridges continue to suck.