California Continues Crusade against Affordable, Reliable Natural Gas

The California Energy Commission is in the process of retooling state building codes to limit the use of natural gas in new buildings across the state, according to E&E News. In addition to last year’s mandate that requires all new homes have solar panels, the agency now plans to tighten rules on natural gas for home heating and hot water, a code update that would take effect in 2023.

E&E News reports:

Environmental groups want a complete ban on natural gas in new homes, but the state commission has signaled that isn’t likely right now. Officials instead in the coming months are likely to use incentives to urge developers to pick electric options for heating, like heat pumps. More muscular requirements could come later.

“We are really ratcheting up the efficiency across the board,” agency Commissioner Andrew McAllister said in an interview. “We anticipate that we’ll be providing incentives for the market to scale up its adoption of heat pumps.”

“You need to give the marketplace reasons to adopt it before you step in and maybe mandate it,” McAllister added. “That’s the pathway that we’re likely on.”

These regulations come after more than 40 cities and counties across the state have already tightened rules on natural gas use in new homes, including San Francisco, which has banned it entirely. As GAIN strategic advisor and former Congressman Albert Wynn wrote in Bloomberg Law last June, these efforts are misguided and shortsighted. Wynn highlights the affordability and environmental benefits of natural gas:

According to the American Gas Association, households that use natural gas for heating, cooking, and clothes drying save an average of $874 per year compared to homes using electricity for those applications. Further, natural gas furnaces offer the greatest energy savings for customers, as oil furnaces, electric heat pumps, and electric resistance furnaces cost two to four times as much as the most efficient gas furnaces...

…natural gas has been and remains a key part of the solution towards a sustainable future and lowering carbon emissions—as President Barack Obama admitted in his 2014 State of the Union speech. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the rise of natural gas for power generation has been crucial in declining emissions from the power sector. In fact, the U.S. saw the largest decline in energy-related carbon emissions in 2019 than any other country largely due to the increased use of natural gas power generation.

Natural gas plays an important role in providing a safe, reliable, and affordable source to meet our nation’s energy needs. An “all of the above” energy strategy that encourages development of renewable sources but also recognizes the critical role of natural gas is key to fueling the American economy for decades to come.

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