WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Vermont is way behind its goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in the transportation sector.
The state needs to add 90,000 electric vehicles by 2025 as part of the effort to hit greenhouse gas emission targeted reductions. So far, there are fewer than 3,000 electric vehicles on the roads, according to a report by Energy Action Network.
To reach the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, Vermont needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 25 percent below 2005 levels in the next six years. In 2015, Vermont had seen only a two percent reduction from 2005 levels.
Panel members at “The Road to the Future: Transportation in Vermont,” a discussion sponsored by EAN and VTDigger, said they remained hopeful but acknowledged reaching the emission targets will be difficult.
Transportation is responsible for producing most of Vermont’s greenhouse gases, 43 percent, followed by heating buildings, which contributes 28 percent.
Jared Duval, the executive director of EAN, said greenhouse gas emissions had actually increased a “troubling” 10 percent from 2013. “That is the exact wrong opposite direction that our goals and commitments would have us going in,” he said.
Better fuel efficiency and more carpooling are part of the reduction strategy. However, Duval said 31 percent of vehicles registered in Vermont are sport utility vehicles or crossovers and 45 percent of the new cars last year were in those categories, which are not as fuel-efficient as hybrid vehicles.
To reach the electric vehicle goals, the EAN report estimated more than a third of the 264,000 cars sold in Vermont between now and 2025 would have to be electric-powered.
Rep. Sarah Copeland-Hanzas, a panel member, said creating incentives for electric vehicles for owners of older hybrid cars would free up more fuel-efficient vehicles for those who can’t afford a new electric car. Increasing fuel efficiency is another way fewer emissions will be emitted.
“What we’re doing is not enough,” Copeland-Hanzas said of the state’s proposal for $1.5 million to create incentives for electric vehicle purchases. “We need a comprehensive program, we need a Cash for Clunkers program that buys back some of these [vehicles]…and gets some of these people into used hybrids.”
Sen. Tim Ashe, also on the panel, noted the competing needs for state dollars. He said a program to provide financial incentives for a fraction of the cars needed could be costly. He agreed with Copeland-Hanzas of the need to people to trade in less fuel-efficient cars for used hybrids.
Speakers also talked about the need to make public transit more robust. Peter Walke, the deputy Natural Resources secretary, said not only were more routes needed but a change in culture around public transit.
Walke chaired a governor’s commission told to craft a plan for meeting Vermont’s renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction goals while spurring economic development and increasing energy affordability.
Rail should be used more and on the major corridors, Copeland-Hanzas said, freeing up buses “to run the spurs out into the hills.”