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Forum, April 16: We can spend a few pennies, or we can do nothing

Published: 4/16/2019 10:06:07 AM
Modified: 4/16/2019 10:06:01 AM
We can spend a few pennies, or we can do nothing

I am willing to add my 2 cents. Actually, it will be $16 (I used 800 gallons of propane last year). Are you willing to spare 2 cents?

John McClaughry wants to keep his 2 cents. In his op-ed (“Levy on heating fuels is Vermont’s latest big idea,” April 9), he opposes the 2-cent increase in Vermont’s fuel tax because all of us would be taxed to help others weatherize their homes. Those others would be low-income families. McClaughry thinks they should take out a mortgage or a home equity loan and pay for it by themselves. Think about how that would work for the families the program is designed to help. I’ll bet banks are already lining up to offer those loans.

Weatherization is a one-time expenditure that results in permanent savings for the homeowner and long-term benefits for the climate. On average, fuel usage is cut 29 percent when a home is properly weatherized. That’s worth 2 cents, or, um, $16 to me.

McClaughry is willing to accept the costs of doing nothing about our collective carbon footprint. My town, Norwich, is hoping we will get reimbursed for the nearly $3 million cost of the July 4 storm two years ago. Look at the Midwest flooding right now, and add up the cost of the increasingly erratic weather we are all experiencing. There are also health costs associated with doing nothing. The Energy Action Network cites a study from the American Lung Association that found Vermont stands to save $313 million dollars in health costs by transitioning to a majority of electric vehicles by 2050. In Drawdown — The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, a study of the 100 best strategies for reversing global warming, insulating existing residential and commercial buildings could net a savings of $2.5 trillion. How many pennies is that?

I urge Vermont residents to contact their legislators and, most important, Gov. Phil Scott, and tell them you will put in your 2 cents for weatherization. Let’s not be penny-wise and pound-foolish.



Tiny step can help Vermonters save hundreds of dollars

Finally, after years and years of inaction, the Vermont Legislature is stepping up to help support low-income weatherization by proposing an increase, from 2 cents per gallon to 4 center per gallon, in the surcharge on delivered fuels like propane and heating oil. We all should applaud the legislators who developed and are supporting this simple proposal.

So why don’t Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe and Gov. Phil Scott support it? They say it would be regressive. In other words, that it would have a proportionally greater effect on those with lower incomes. While their observation may be correct, it is a weak excuse designed to confuse the public into thinking they are looking out for us.

Let’s consider it. If there were a 2 cent per gallon increase in heating oil, a family using 500 gallons would add $10 to their annual bill. But that is not the whole picture. Ashe and Scott know this. There is the weatherization part: If that home were weatherized, the family would save hundreds of dollars in unnecessary heating costs. And not just in the first year, but every year. This would free that family to use these hundreds of dollars as they see fit, rather than paying for fuel oil that they don’t really need.

Plus, weatherization investment by Vermonters puts other Vermonters to work making our buildings more efficient and comfortable. And it avoids sending hundreds of thousands of Vermont dollars a year down to the owners of Gulf Coast refineries.

The messages from Ashe and Scott are designed to confuse and make it look like they are minding the store. I’m not so sure that is happening.

I wrote this because I think it’s time for our elected representatives to start looking out for people rather than the heating fuel industry. Let’s keep an eye out to see who supports this tiny step to save Vermonters some money.



Can’t Lebanon residents make a new auditorium happen?

Color me perplexed. The proposal for a new Lebanon High School auditorium failed at the polls last month, despite some quite impassioned arguments in its favor. Apparently, plenty of city residents see great value in providing a multi-use anchoring space for the benefit of our schoolchildren and by extension the community.

Why don’t we just make it happen?

One way or another, the money comes from our own pockets, and there’s more than enough money here in our community to fund that auditorium, one way or another.

How many charitable dollars do residents send annually out of this community to support favorite causes?

How much do we spend on stuff we don’t need to have, or do?

I’ll tell you a true story. In the early 2000s I and some people to whom I was then related were running a women’s center in an extremely conservative and increasingly dangerous neighborhood in a majority-Muslim country. The center taught needlework and literacy skills. We decided to close that location and relocate to the city’s commercial district.

A community delegation then came to us and requested that we reopen the original branch because their girls couldn’t get to the new center. But we were concerned about the safety of our teachers, and everyone knew the family politics that had compelled us to vacate our first leased space.

So the local men found a suitable location with a willing landlord, and after the lease was agreed upon, they, at their own expense and with their own labor, added barbed wire to the top of the compound walls and built a small room in which a full-time watchman could live.

Neighborhood imams praised our work and our respectability in their weekly sermons, everyone came together to guarantee protection for our center, and so we re-established the first center while continuing to operate the second.

Lebanon is exponentially richer, in every way a community can be measured, than where that women’s center was located. Are we capable of less support for our own children than those far-off people were for theirs?



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