I've seen the future...it's cold. Very cold.
Last month the city council of Berkeley, California voted unanimously to ban natural gas piping in new residential construction in their community in an effort to decrease the town’s carbon footprint.
This was not an impulsive decision, but one that had been in the planning stages for many months. It was also not unique, as the idea of limiting the spread of new natural gas piping is probably being considered in many communities in both the U.S. and Canada, perhaps in a town near you – or even your own.
This is why the debate over how to decarbonize our lives is going to be a battle. Folks have to speak up about the incredible changes that will be facing us as we move to a lower carbon future.
Of course, if those of us who like gas don’t show up for the debate, it will be easy to legislate an end to gas lines. It’s not just in California, the debate over ‘zero-net-energy-homes’ is cropping up everywhere. Some states such as Massachusetts are seriously studying the steps to decarbonization. Pay attention to local green and sustainability programs.
We’re gearing up for another great event in 2020, in New Orleans.
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I don’t know about you, but personally, I don’t care what heats up the hot water in my shower in the morning, as long as it’s hot! I also don’t have a personal relationship with the fuel my furnace uses to keep me warm in the winter. I do, however, care about cooking with gas and about gas fireplaces.
But you can’t have a house with just a little bit of natural gas, because you either have the pipes or you don’t. Gas is such a convenient, low cost energy source that it would be crazy not to use it for your water or heat. Your ability to have those gas appliances is under threat from regulations that ban gas hook-ups, or at least make it very expensive.
The last 20 years have proven to a lot of families that it’s always wise to have more than one way to heat your house in an emergency, or even just to have an alternative if the price of one particular energy source goes crazy. In rural areas you may see wood and pellet back-ups. Propane can also be popular in the suburbs. In the city, however, homeowners may increasingly be forced into electric-only offerings and all the associated risk of interrupted supply and sky-high prices.
So the key question is: Are we going to show up? Are we going to raise our voices? Or are we just going to watch this process play out and settle for a future without natural gas? It’s up to each one of us to get involved. Get involved in your community, join the local business associations and get to know the homebuilders, and pay attention to the activities of the city council. And get to know your local politicians so they see what your business brings to the community.
At HPBA, we have the tools to help you, but we need your ears and eyes on the ground, monitoring your local government activity. The future of your store and our freedom to choose natural gas is hanging in the balance.
Case Study: the importance of multiple fuel sources
Recently, some families awoke to cold showers in parts of California, unless they have gas. They had no coffee or tea, unless they cook with gas. Most critically, if their house was cold this morning they were out of luck, unless they had a heating gas fireplace or a woodstove. (Did you know it went down to 46 degrees in Grass Valley and Sonoma, and was a very chilly 16 degrees in Truckee earlier this month?) Might be hot and dry in many places, but California is a big state…
During the recent Santa Ana winds, Pacific Gas & Electric shut off the power to nearly one million customers in California in an effort to prevent wildfires from downed wires. The utility plans to do this again if the weather conditions again elevate the risk of wildfires. These regular windstorms remind us that restricting new homes to just electricity is problematic. Having more than one way to keep warm is a wise strategy for every household. But many communities in California – and elsewhere – are pursuing ways to ban natural gas pipelines in new housing and eliminate one way to stay warm when the electricity is out. This is shortsighted as it limits options, both for technological upgrades in the future, but also just for consumer choice.
These bans would make it very hard to stay warm in the case of power outage – whether natural or manmade.
Families with natural gas or propane may have had to use candles last night, but at least they’ll have heat, showers, and coffee.
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