When Berkeley, California, last year became the first U.S. city to ban the installation of natural gas lines to new homes, Mayor Jesse Arreguín proudly stated, “We are committed to the Paris Agreement and must take immediate action in order to reach our climate action goals. It’s not radical. It’s necessary.”
For hardliners whose only focus is ridding the world of carbon (dioxide), the move is obvious and necessary. With wind and solar prices dropping, they argue, natural gas is no longer needed as a “bridge fuel,” so they envision an all-electric future.
That could double electricity demand – and massively increase the number of turbines and solar panel dotting the American landscape. Yet is it price, or the fact that the U.S. now leads the world in natural gas production, that is the driver behind these actions?
Phasing out natural gas-fired electric power generation by 2030 is bedrock dogma in the Green New Deal, so it should be no surprise that climate alarmists would jump at the chance to ban new natural gas lines. Many other cities in California have already followed Berkeley’s lead, and gas bans are in the offing nationwide. Connecticut lawmakers are actually proposing to pressure insurers to stop insuring homes with gas appliances and heating systems!
The Connecticut bill is especially nasty, as the state is host to nearly 1,500 insurance companies, many of which write policies nationwide. As state Sierra Club director Samantha Dynowski explained, “Backing fossil fuel projects at this time is going to make it difficult if not impossible to do what we need to do to protect the planet and save lives. I think transparency is really the first step to hold insurers accountable for backing fossil fuels.”
Takoma Park, Maryland, which proudly bills itself as “the Berkeley of the East,” wants to go even further. City officials want to ban “all gas appliances, close fossil fuel pipelines, and move gasoline stations that do not convert to electric charging stations outside the city limits by 2045.”
If implemented, the Takoma Park proposal would force those with gas stoves, hot water heaters, clothes dryers, furnaces, outdoor grills, and even propane heaters (widely used by sidewalk restaurants to replace them with electric units.
Homeowners, landlords, and businesses that currently rely on natural gas would have to upgrade their electrical systems to handle the additional load from going all-electric. Estimates run as high as $25,000 per resident (not household) to make the switch.
In Takoma Park, which four decades ago became the nation’s first “nuclear-free city,” sustainability manager Gina Mathis says, “Yes there are ways that we could soften” these policies, “but we know that voluntary programs are not going to get us to net zero.”
The mandates tend to generate anger. According to the Washington Post, one Takoma Park resident complained that “the number of times the word ‘require’ is used in this [proposal] is stunning.”
Natural gas companies, gas appliance manufacturers, restaurants, and ordinary citizens have additional reasons for not taking these radical demands lying down.
Last November The California Restaurant Association filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court, claiming that Berkeley’s action violates “long-established state and federal law.” The CRA further claims the action is invalid and unenforceable under the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act and California’s Energy Code and Building Standards Code, and that it is an unlawful to use police powers to amend state building codes.
A CRA press release further explained that the natural gas ban will force higher energy costs on businesses and consumers alike and, wurst of all, “effectively prohibit the preparation of flame-seared meats and sausages, charred vegetables, and the use of intense heat from a flame under a wok.”
Alarm over this fast-spreading virtue signaling has spread to Washington and Oregon, where the Seattle Times says gas companies are forming a coalition of unions, businesses, and consumer groups to tout the benefits of natural gas and help “prevent or defeat” initiatives that would inhibit or prohibit its use.
Comparisons between electric and gas appliances show that gas appliances may cost more up front but save money while in use. Hot water heaters and stoves operate even when the electric power is out. But consumer choice is not high on the list for virtue-signaling politicians who claim the imprimatur of the Paris climate accords – to which the U.S. is not a party.
Americans who enjoy their appliances and their lifestyles cannot rest, knowing that radicals even want to cajole or force insurers to take away their ability to protect their biggest investment. And they are relentless.