Berkeley Natural Gas Ban Misses the Mark

Morning Consult recently published an op-ed by GAIN spokesman Craig Stevens regarding the City of Berkeley’s ban on natural gas hookups for new buildings. Stevens points out that other California cities including San Jose, Sacramento, and Los Angeles are considering similar bans. The Seattle City Council is also considering a ban of their own, which Stevens calls “myopic.” The op-ed describes the new regulation:

Under the natural gas ordinance introduced by Berkeley Councilwoman Kate Harrison, all new single-family residences — including townhouses and small apartment buildings — are prohibited from installing natural gas appliances. Officials say that a similar regulation for commercial buildings and larger apartment complexes will soon follow.

Stevens contends that Berkeley and other municipalities are “operating under the misguided belief that the shift from natural gas to electric appliances will be better for the environment.” But these policies will burden residents with higher energy costs while providing minimal environmental benefit. Stevens writes:

With this announcement, Berkeley’s city council has struck a new blow – not only against common sense, but also against consumer choice, preventing residents from taking advantage of affordable, clean-burning and domestically produced natural gas. In a state that already boasts one of the highest costs of living in the nation, Berkeley’s ordinance will further increase utility costs for residents. According to Patrick Kennedy, a developer who builds high-density housing in the area, adding individual electric hot-water heaters to each apartment unit would be between 10 and 20 times more expensive than gas water heaters, a cost that could be as much as an additional $3,000-$4,000 per unit.

Environmental activists are constantly moving the goal posts. What was once lauded by President Barack Obama as an important “bridge fuel” has now been referred to as “dirty energy.” Natural gas has helped lower U.S. carbon emissions from the power sector by 28% since 2005. It is responsible for providing more than 35% of America’s electricity, and more than two-fifths of California’s total in-state net electricity generation (2017).

Ironically, natural gas power generation may increase in order to meet the rising electricity demand in California, considering wind and solar only provide about 8% of the country’s electricity needs. While developing sustainable energy solutions is important, policymakers should carefully consider the effectiveness of regulations that could negatively impact consumers and risk grid reliability.

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