In Oakland, a city in the state of California that has been plagued with a failing power infrastructure, the city council voted unanimously earlier this week to ban natural gas from all future constructed residential and commercial buildings.
Developers can apply for a waiver to avoid complying with the ban based on “technology feasibility reasons,” and existing buildings, additions to existing buildings and some other buildings are not affected by the legislation.
“Oakland’s national leadership to build cleaner, safer, and healthier cities for all families continues with this historic transition to all-electric buildings,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf in a statement.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the ban on the most plentiful source of domestically-produced electric energy in the United States:
The vote comes more than a year after Berkeley became the first city in California to pass a natural gas ban — a move that is being challenged in the courts. Since Berkeley’s measure, nearly 40 cities have joined the effort with similar restrictions, including San Francisco, San Jose and Windsor.
In November 2019, the California Restaurant Association challenged Berkeley’s ban in federal court arguing that it would raise costs and hurt businesses. The lawsuit is still going through court proceedings.
Councilman Dan Kalb, the lead author of the legislation, said Oakland can’t meet its climate goals without shifting away from natural gas use. In July, the City Council adopted the 2030 Equitable Climate Action Plan, which calls on the city to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 56 percent below 2005 levels over the next 10 years.
“State energy policies and lower prices of renewables mean that substituting natural gas with electricity is one of the quickest, safest, and least expensive pathways to eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from buildings,” Kalb said. “Additionally, reducing the reliance on gas systems will reduce the risk of fires, simplify building systems and maintenance, and improve indoor air quality.”
“Oakland city staff determined that in 2017, 25.8 percent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions came from buildings — and 70 percent of that came from natural gas combustion. Natural gas is mostly made up of methane, a climate pollutant whose contribution to climate change is 85 percent greater than carbon dioxide, city staff said in a report,” the Chronicle reported.
But the federal government and natural gas producers paint a different picture of the energy source.
“Based on the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) annual survey of electric generators, natural gas-fired generators accounted for 43 percent of operating U.S. electricity generating capacity in 2019,” the website reported on Oct. 16, 2020. “These natural gas-fired generators provided 39 percent of electricity generation in 2019, more than any other source. Most of the natural gas-fired capacity added in recent decades uses combined-cycle technology, which surpassed coal-fired generators in 2018 to become the technology with the most electricity generating capacity in the United States.”
According to Citizens Energy Group, a natural gas company that has operated as a Public Charitable Trust in Indianapolis, Indiana, since 1887, the benefits of natural gas are clear:
Natural gas, the cleanest fossil fuel, is a highly efficient form of energy. Natural gas’s advantages over other fuels include the following:
• FACT: It’s dependable: You never have to worry about weather, delivery schedules or running out.
• FACT: Houses with natural gas services are not affected by the severe weather or mechanical disruptions that cause most residential electric power outages
• FACT: The nation’s most critical buildings all rely on natural gas: the Pentagon, the White House and the Capitol building all use natural gas as a heating source.
• FACT: Natural gas can be counted on as a primary fuel as well as the most reliable backup to renewable energies* (natural gas is there when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine).
• Alternative/renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, meet only 6% of our nation’s energy needs.
• FACT: North America’s continental natural gas pipeline system is the safest mode of energy transportation in the world today
• FACT: The natural gas industry spends over $7 billion a year to ensure natural gas is delivered safely and reliably to your home.
• FACT: Natural gas emits 45 percent less carbon dioxide than electricity generated from coal
• FACT: Natural gas emits 30 percent less carbon dioxide than fuel oil
A final reading of the Oakland legislation is slated for December 15, according to the Chronicle.
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