Complete picture, different story
Vermonters only get part of the total and complex picture of our current energy situation from John McClaughry’s analysis of renewable energy in April 18’s Herald. A true accounting of our energy policy and its total cost needs to examine the enormous subsidies, tax credits, and other investment incentives that the federal government grants to natural gas, coal, and nuclear power. Vermonters pay for these with our federal taxes, both directly and by having to generate revenue elsewhere to make up missing revenues. Vermont then cements these costs into our own tax policy by adopting federal standards of calculating adjusted gross income into state tax calculations.
And while McClaughry mentions other costs of renewable energy — to the environment and through use of foreign-made components — he neglects to mention the staggering environmental costs of nuclear, coal, and natural gas production, other than to dismiss climate change. In fact, the short-term destruction to human health and the environment in coal mining areas, downwind of coal- and natural gas-fired power plants, and in the disposing of nuclear waste are enormous. Add to this the catastrophes that kill people and destroy whole communities when accidents occur in the course of producing coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy, and one begins to compile a more complete cost accounting.
Finally, one would need to untangle the global nature of energy companies, both in the production of renewables and for coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy production, to decide if Vermonters — or even Americans — profit from one source of energy over another.
However, despite McClaughry’s disingenuous omission of factors that would promote a more informed and sensible approach to a cost-effective energy portfolio, he is correct in pointing out that renewable energy, like all energy production, has a myriad of costs that need to be weighed along with its benefits. And he rightly notes that government policies that reward investment disproportionately benefit those with enough disposable income to invest. But there are fewer Vermonters in that category, leaving only those Americans able to invest vast sums to reap the lion’s share of these tax advantages and returns on their investments.