Progressive-led cities like San Francisco, Seattle, and New York are participating in a new wave of anti-fossil fuel activism that will further harm their residents, and may in fact be counterproductive in terms of reducing carbon output. These cities, and others, are trying to ban new natural gas connections utility connections and to even replace existing natural gas use with electricity use.
This means no more gas boilers, furnaces, stoves, or dryers in homes, offices, restaurants, and other buildings within city limits. Katherine Blunt reports for the WSJ:
A growing fight is unfolding across the U.S. as cities consider phasing out natural gas for home cooking and heating, citing concerns about climate change, and states push back against these bans.
Major cities including San Francisco, Seattle, Denver and New York have either enacted or proposed measures to ban or discourage the use of the fossil fuel in new homes and buildings, two years after Berkeley, Calif., passed the first such prohibition in the U.S. in 2019.
The bans in turn have led Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kansas and Louisiana to enact laws outlawing such municipal prohibitions in their states before they can spread, arguing that they are overly restrictive and costly. Ohio is considering a similar measure.
The outcome of the battle, largely among Democratic-led cities and Republican-run states, has the potential to reshape the future of the utility industry, and demand for natural gas, which the U.S. produces more of than any other country.
Proponents of phasing out natural gas say their aim is to reduce planet-warming emissions over time by fully electrifying new homes and buildings as wind and solar farms proliferate throughout the country, making the power grid cleaner.
Homes and businesses account for about 13% of the nation’s annual greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, mostly because natural gas is used in cooking, heating, and washers and dryers. Climate activists say reducing that percentage is critical for states with goals to slash carbon emissions in the coming decades.
Opponents in the gas industry counter by citing the higher costs of making many homes fully electric, and pointing to the added security of having a second home energy source to heat and cook with during extreme weather events. They also highlight the preference many home and professional chefs have for using gas-fired stoves.
New all-electric homes are cost-competitive with those that use gas in many parts of the country, but retrofits can be considerably more expensive, depending on the existing heating and cooking systems and the cost of effectively converting them. A recent study by San Francisco found that retrofitting all housing units that now use natural gas would cost between $3.4 billion and $5.9 billion, costs that would fall on residents, the city or both.
In a race to condemn all fossil fuel use, city leaders are forgetting how much of America’s electricity is generated by fossil fuels. When power is produced far away and transmitted over powerlines, much of it can be lost along the way. By contrast, according to Schneider Electric many natural gas boilers have 96% efficiency in the home. Meanwhile, power plants have efficiencies of about 35%, and transmission along power lines can lose between 8% and 15% of what’s produced.
What happened to safe, clean gas?
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