This Viewpoint was originally published in CT Mirror on November 15, 2019.
Many Connecticut taxpayers are upset over the Democratic attempt to place tolls on our highways and bridges but are unaware of a back door tax that could increase gasoline prices by 50 cents a gallon or more. This plan is being initiated by an unelected panel populated by bureaucrats making six-figure salaries. They are promising to use this money to promote electric cars, buses, and sustainable activities like bicycles and walking.
Known as the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI to friends), this bureaucratic panel is a regional consortium of nine states and the District of Columbia that can force energy producers to purchase credits from the state based on the amount of carbon emissions of the fuel they sell. This amount, or “cap,” will decrease every year, so that the credits the producers buy increase in price if they are unsuccessful in reducing their carbon footprint. These credits are “traded” on a state-created exchange, so that energy producers who decrease their carbon footprint are rewarded by paying less and those who are unsuccessful pay more. Thus the program is called “Cap-and-Trade.”
Got it? Probably not. Neither did I the first (nor second nor third time) I read it. Maybe an example will make it clearer.
Let’s say a gasoline distributor is selling gasoline to your local gas station. Based on the amount of carbon emissions this gasoline produces, the distributor will have to purchase credits from the exchange to sell the gasoline and the distributor will push these costs down to your local gas station, and ultimately down to you at the pump. So the plan is to reduce the sale of gasoline in Connecticut by making it more expensive for you to buy it. With the price for credits ever increasing, your price goes up, and you’ll be encouraged to buy an electric car, take mass transit, or ride a bicycle. To facilitate this, TCI social engineers also want to increase urbanization so that people live closer together and won’t need cars anymore and will walk or bike to work. Eventually gasoline companies will need to buy fewer credits only because they’re selling less gasoline.
Of course it is a huge scam. The problem is that there are not too many cars powered by electricity (only about 10,000 fully electric or hybrids in the state now). Fully electric vehicles (EVs) have limited range and battery life. Electrification of the entire transportation sector will put an inordinate strain on our power utilities. EV batteries require rare earth materials that are in limited supply, and so will only further drive up the costs of EVs. Thus, the vast majority of Connecticut citizens will have to pay more for gas, unless the owner of your local gas station is willing to pay for the distributor’s gas credit out of the goodness of his heart. And the alternatives that the TCI bureaucrats want to force upon us are unpalatable – ever more expensive EVs or being forced to live in crowded conditions in urban areas with outrageous housing prices where the need to drive diminishes.
Cap-and-Trade is already the law in California, where gasoline is now over four dollars a gallon. Part of the state’s profit from this system was supposed to be invested in prudent forestry, to decrease the number of wild fires. Things have not worked out as planned. Wild fires are raging, and one of the largest energy companies, Pacific Gas and Electric, has filed for bankruptcy, even though it charges Californians almost twice for electricity as companies in neighboring states.
Cap-and-Trade was tried in Europe, Australia and western Canada, until the voters in those locales voted the perpetrators out of power. France tried to get around this by simply increasing the hydrocarbon tax on fuel directly. The ensuing riots lasted over three months. Chile recently passed a law requiring that their subway system have 60% of its power generated by wind and solar power. Predictably fares went up and predictably, riots occurred. The general population is willing to indulge the climate change agenda until they get the bill.
The irony of TCI’s policy is that it will actually increase carbon admissions. Little or any of this money will actually be spent on our transportation problems. Rather it will go to fund fatter pensions for our bureaucratic class who will now be able to afford more lavish vacations involving carbon-emitting airline travel to European destinations, not to mention the huge amount of fossil fuels expended propelling them on ocean liners while they are grazing on all-you-can eat seafood buffets during their Caribbean cruises. Perhaps some of them will be kind enough to send us post cards.
Joe Bentivegna is an ophthalmologist in Rocky Hill.