Last Week, (July 18th, 2019) Berkeley, California, a suburb of San Francisco, banned the use of natural gas in new building construction. The unanimous decision by its city council may be among the first shots in what is shaping up as a “War on Natural Gas.”
The move by Berkeley comes as part of its push to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to 33% of what they were in 2000 by the year 2020. The Mercury News quoted a Sierra Club “campaigner” that 50 other California cities are “looking to phase out natural gas infrastructure.”
The push comes as California is seeking to lead the nation in climate change mitigation through replacing fossil fuel power generation with wind and solar sources. Advocates also contend that the eventual elimination of natural gas infrastructure could assist in “earthquake proofing” cities by eliminating potential ignition points in the event of a significant quake.
Included in the ban are new homes and commercial construction, including restaurants. Restaurants will thus have to rely on electric ovens and cooktops. Supporters state that induction appliances are more efficient yet just as effective in preparing heated meals. At present however, such appliances are about twice as expensive and gas appliances.
Exemptions to the NG rule include new housing units built in the basements or attics of existing homes if NG is already in use in those homes, and in construction that will “serve the public interest.”
Hints at a potential “War on Natural Gas” are abundant with ground zero actually being New York State as its governor, Andrew Cuomo, has called for a 50% reduction in fossil fuel emissions by 2030. As that state’s total energy consumption (power, transportation, heating) is heavily reliant on Natural Gas (35%; versus gasoline at 17.4%; and coal at 0.5%), NG has become the primary target for those reductions. In mid-2018, NG providers in New York stopped accepting new customers after the governor blocked the expansion of any new gas pipelines.
With environmentalists claiming virtual victory in its War on Coal, a “War on Natural Gas” seems to be in its initial stages. Of course, what most fail to understand is that it was the dramatic growth of the NG industry and subsequent falling NG prices that led to coal’s decline. Despite the dramatic growth of renewables in recent years, the War on NG will be a far more difficult battle for environmentalists, and thus, may prove to be even more vicious than its War on Coal.