Thanks, Phil: R.I.P. TCI

This shouldn’t cost much to fix

We’re screwed, aren’t we?

In a year when the effects of climate change have become undeniable (the latest example being the extreme flooding in British Columbia), a New England multistate compact to cut greenhouse gas emissions from transportation has officially collapsed.

And I’d like to pause here and thank Gov. Phil Scott for his part in killing the once-promising Transportation and Climate Initiative.

TCI, proposed by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, is dead. Baker pulled the plug yesterday because no other New England state had committed to the compact, which rendered it null and void. The last straw was the withdrawal of Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, who said TCI was “a pretty tough rock to push when gas prices are so high.”

Yeah, we’re screwed. If gas prices in the low to mid $3.00 range are enough to kill a significant emission reduction initiative, we’re never going to slow the onrush of climate change. Even when our rational minds know full well that paying more thank three bucks a gallon is pocket change compared to the costs of global warming — such as repairing the highway washout pictured above, which is one of dozens now facing British Columbia.

Our governor didn’t pound the final nail in TCI’s coffin, but he did more than his share to make sure it never came to life. Remember that the next time you see images from Vermont like the B.C. washout seen above.

Scott’s attitude toward TCI has been consistent: Complain, complain, complain without definitively opposing it. Because that would have belied his moderate image, right?

The death of TCI might not be too big a deal (at least for our state) if the Vermont Climate Council comes up with a serious plan to reduce emissions and boost green energy. It’s tasked with meeting the targets set in the Global Warming Solutions Act, which constitute at least a noble gesture in the right direction. And if the Legislature enacts the VCC recommendations. And if the governor doesn’t veto anything the Leg adopts.

In my mind’s eye I can see the governor saying “Gas prices are too high, now is not the time to put another burden on working Vermonters.” And I can see rural Democrats bemoaning the cost of refueling their constituents’ pickup trucks and Subarus.

All the while, they’ll pound their chests about the urgency of facing climate change in a serious way. It’s tough to watch this shadow play unfold over and over again, just as it did at COP26.

It’s short-term thinking, but then the human race has never been known for ability to forego immediate gratification to achieve a universally desirable goal in the future. I’ve got to say, I’m not looking forward to Paolo Bacigalupi’s magnificent novel “The Windup Girl” becoming nonfiction. Actually, it makes me glad to be a senior citizen. I’ll be safely dead by the time things get truly awful.

I will be surprised — I will be shocked — if we get something substantial out of this VCC process. And by “substantial,” I don’t mean an incremental, watered-down plan. I mean something that would make Bill McKibben proud of his home state.

Stop laughing.

3 thoughts on “Thanks, Phil: R.I.P. TCI

  1. H. Jay Eshelman

    Just for some perspective: The Fraser River in British Columbia (photo used above) has been prone to serious flooding for decades…since records have been kept. Major flooding occurred in 1894, 1948, and 1972. The Fraser River is where most of the recent flood damage occurred. There was some flood damage on the other side of the Strait of Georgia at Brennen Lake, but it was relatively minor in comparison to the Fraser River damage, and Brennen Lake water levels had recently been raised to provide more summer drought water resources.

    Reply
      1. H. Jay Eshelman

        Just for some more perspective then: Climate change has been an imminent threat for time immemorial.

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