California launched the war on natural gas with actions by the Legislature and the state air board.
When President Joe Biden took over as president, his administration declared fossil fuels public enemy No. 1 in the United States while begging dictatorships to pump more oil when gasoline prices soared last year after Russia invaded Ukraine. The United States has an abundance of natural gas with the capacity to supply it to Europe and other places.
Earlier this month, a commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Richard Trumka Jr., said in an interview he wanted to ban natural gas ranges because of their potential hazards. It set off a storm that saw the White House quickly backing down. Trumka, according to news reports, tried to get the five-member commission to agree to starting the process to ban stoves and failed to receive a single vote in support of his position.
Of course, California, sadly, is already way ahead of the curve on this issue. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District board is set to vote in March to ban the sale of any gas hot water heater or furnace starting in 2027 for new construction. In the valley, Dublin already has policy in place that requires all electric appliances and heaters in any new construction that’s not a commercial facility. Dublin took the action as part of its compliance with the state measure AB 32 for its plan to limit greenhouse gases.
Banning furnaces and water heaters likely is the first step toward eliminating gas ranges and dryers. Of course, the California electric grid already is incapable of meeting current demand and regulators have demanded energy utilities use green power. That’s the proverbial train wreck when the sun goes down and the wind stops blowing.
Remember, in days past, when the utilities would ask for the public’s help in limiting power use in the summer and fall afternoons. Now the hours of concern are sunset and beyond, 5-9 p.m.
Turn off the natural gas—which incidentally provides the fuel to the peak power plants that help meet electrical demand on those hot afternoons—and there’s another set of problems. Toss in that the Diablo Canyon Nuclear plant is scheduled to be closed by 2030 and there’s a huge need for power that is going unmet.
This is a classic case of zealots driving policy without considering the full ramifications of their actions. It’s sadly similar to the public health officials during Covid-19 who demanded lockdowns, masks, closed schools and other measures without any consideration of impacts. The country already is seeing more deaths than would be anticipated because of routine health screenings and procedures that were halted to preserve hospital capacity and safety equipment.
And the lifetime impacts on poor black and brown children will not be reversed without significant interventions to get them back to grade levels, particularly in reading and math.