VPIRG still serious about carbon tax

Interesting hire by VPIRG. They’ve signed on businessman and veteran Democrat Tom Hughes as Campaign Manager of Energy Independent Vermont. EIV, for those just tuning in, is a coalition of businesses, nonprofits, academics, and advocates with the goal of addressing climate change and as VPIRG puts it, “grow[ing] the economy by putting a price on carbon pollution.”

Also known as the carbon tax. Well, not exactly, but more on that later.

The hiring of Hughes is a little unusual, in that advocacy organizations like VPIRG usually fill their staffs with energetic and (ahem) cheap young people. Hughes has been around for a while. “Our partners and our financial resources allowed us to bring in a really seasoned person,” said VPIRG chief Paul Burns.

Hughes was a top Democratic activist in the late 90s and early Aughts. He served a shift as VDP Executive Director and held the same post for Howard Dean’s Democracy for America, he was a staffer in five presidential campaigns, and managed Doug Racine’s gubernatorial campaign in 2002.

He’s spent the past several years in the business world, as a division president of Country Home Products and co-founder of a renewable energy firm. Burns cites the combination of political and business experience as key in the EIV campaign. “Tom has a stellar reputation,” he said. “He’s not a partisan hack. He’s distinguished himself as someone who can run campaigns and be effective in the business world.”

Speaking of the carbon tax, despite the scare-mongering of Vermont Republicans and the timid response from leading Democrats, EIV will actively promote a carbon tax in the 2016 legislative session. Not that they expect to prevail: “I won’t predict that a bill will pass the Legislature and land on the Governor’s desk in 2016,” said Burns. “But we’re making progress each day toward our goal.”

Still, “2016 is a really important year to move the conversation forward. The challenges are really great for passing [the carbon tax], but there’s an awful lot of progress we can make and a lot of conversations we need to have.”

VPIRG’s proposal involves a tax on carbon pollution, with offsetting tax cuts and credits for businesses and individuals. Ten percent of the revenue would be invested in energy efficiency and cleaner technologies. The VTGOP has focused on the carbon tax as an issue of convenience against the Democrats, who have responded to the pressure in a, shall we say, less than heroic spirit. (This is me talking, not Burns.)

They could have tried to explain the tax offsets and the economic growth to be won by investing in efficiency and green energy — hell, the Shumlin administration constantly touts clean energy as a major driver of economic growth. They could have argued for the environmental imperative of taking prompt action. They could have pointed out that the huge costs of carbon pollution are not accounted for in our flawed market system.

Indeed, they could point out all the ways that government policy and resources artificially prop up fossil fuels, artificially lowering their costs and making it harder for alternative energies to compete in a rigged marketplace.

Yes, the Dems could have made those arguments, but instead they turtled. Can’t blame ‘em, I guess; Democrats understandably have a touch of PTSD that flares up when Republicans accuse them of being tax-and-spend liberals.

With or without the open support of top Democrats, VPIRG and EIV will soldier on, having “many, many conversations,” hoping to generate momentum for a carbon tax, and perhaps winning passage of some incremental legislation in 2016.

2 thoughts on “VPIRG still serious about carbon tax

  1. newzjunqie

    So – was it all really hysteria? According to the stories and comments, both pro and con are & were having a very “real” debate. Sunderland making this very public has everyone talking. The chance of actually passing a real bill notwithstanding Tony Klein says it’s off the table b/c it’s an election year. However I think it is Deen who wants to set it up and shelve it until favorable financial forecasts, which means any increased revenue or “extra” money is pre-earmarked for another big money grab and spending spree courtesy of our hardworking “lawmakers”. Or lying in wait if there is a regional push which will be a cold day in the hot place. The supposed giving back to the poor and weatherization goals are a big fat lie, another bureaucratic boondoggle and
    revenue stream for dry state coffers emptied by out-of-control spendaholics in state government.

    I cannot believe my eyes as I read the comments of the procarbon tax crowd and claiming by state not divesting of carbon stocks we lost nearly $80 million. Pearce already addressed this stating her job is guardian of state funds so I do not believe them.
    More nutjobbery:
    245 comments and counting:

    And I’m not supporting VPIRG anymore. I cannot support their alignment with the foolhardy doctrinairians and legislators any further. They live in a different world of privledge some of us have never known nor ever will. Nor do I support the hypocritical 350.org or Sierra Club as they are aligned with guess who — nuclear power lobby! What a laugh – “going after the polluters”??? You mean – US – who have few choices???


    I’ve had enough. A loyal supporter for six years giving above membership whenever possible and credit them for waking up our state as well as myself to the goings on with VT Yankee and Entergy Louisiana. But this is over the top. A .08 gas-per-gallon carbon fuel tax I and others could live with but oh no – not good enough – we don’t give til it hurts anymore – they take till it hurts. And I do not even use heating fuel but my husband drives for a living – I dare say most VTers are of modest means.

    As it is he purchases fuel in bulk using containers at the least costly nearby retailer so nothing would change except he would be going to NH along with everyone else on NH border VTer and there are borders on NY & MA. I predict more VTers would go for gas and make it a shopping trip further harming VT businesses on borders.

    Despite the +40% drop in gas prices and crude @ $35./barrel this revenue stream has not flowed back into the economy statewide or nationwide. My guess is ppl are maxed out by the rigors of the “Affordible” Care Act.

    What is happening is more voters will move to the right as here in VT they are billing themselves as the probusiness, antitax and affordability wing of the political spectrum. Seems like daily some doctrinarian dummy such as shitcanned Peter Stirling – with a new six-figure salary and freshly financed gravytrain – wants to expand Dr. D to incude ALL up to age 26 a giveaway to the highest earners and those with more disposable income as poorer VT children already eligible. Surprise! Shap Smith all for it.The left has become worse than the right in terms of the damage inflicted imho which has the right depite their shortcomings wearing halos. Never thought this would happen and another cautionary tale for the “Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely” annals.

    I predict a huge blowback by the voters who are still sane and an end to the failed experiment in VT of a crooked governor aided by lawmakers and officials attmpting to tax our way to prosperity.


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