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Natural gas bans? Be careful what you wish for

Keith Srakocic

Starting in 2019 in the city of Berkeley, California (where else?) a new type of madness began to overtake Democrats in a number of liberal cities and states. Proponents of so-called “green energy” and opponents of fossil fuels started pushing for bans on the use of natural gas for heating and cooking in people’s homes and office buildings. Thus far, six states have enacted laws forbidding such bans at the municipal level and more (mostly Republican governed states) are considering similar measures. This is setting up an ideological battlefield where debates are taking place largely without the benefit of any understanding of the underlying realities or the science involved. (Wall Street Journal, subscription required)

A growing fight is unfolding across the U.S. as cities consider phasing out natural gas for home cooking and heating, citing concerns about climate change, and states push back against these bans.

Major cities including San Francisco, Seattle, Denver and New York have either enacted or proposed measures to ban or discourage the use of the fossil fuel in new homes and buildings, two years after Berkeley, Calif., passed the first such prohibition in the U.S. in 2019.

The bans in turn have led Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kansas and Louisiana to enact laws outlawing such municipal prohibitions in their states before they can spread, arguing that they are overly restrictive and costly. Ohio is considering a similar measure.

The states that have outlawed such natural gas bans are listed in the excerpt above. All of the major cities that have such bans in place or are considering them are run by Democrats. One example that perfectly demonstrates the lunacy of these restrictions is the Big Apple. New York’s municipal government is still debating a ban on new construction containing natural gas outlets despite its own recent, disastrous history.

Governor Andrew Cuomo steadfastly refused to lift the moratorium on new natural gas pipelines in New York State for all of his time in office, claiming that this measure would exacerbate climate change. But as new construction projects in New York City moved forward, consumption of natural gas steadily increased until it outstripped the supply available in the existing pipelines. This brought construction to a halt in many cases and created shortages caused by low pressure levels in the gas lines. As the protests over these shortages swelled, Cuomo then hilariously issued an executive order demanding that the National Grid power company begin pumping more imaginary natural gas that they didn’t have the capacity to move.

The end result was that the utilities had to begin shipping in more gas by other methods to keep up with the demand. This raised gas prices for consumers across the region, despite the fact that the country was producing so much natural gas by that point that the industry was literally giving it away for free at times. A similar situation cropped up in California, where the state initially moved to ban new construction of natural gas power plants and retire the existing ones. That decision was postponed as soon as the rolling blackouts began after the sun went down and the state’s renewable energy supplies couldn’t keep up.

Here’s another uncomfortable truth for the anti-gas warriors out there. Do you know what happens when you eliminate natural gas usage and fully “electrify” homes and offices? The demand for electricity goes up exponentially. And do you know where a lot of that electricity comes from? If you’re remembering all of the coal-fired plants that were converted to use cheaper and cleaner natural gas over the past decade or more, give yourself a cookie. So if the demand for electricity either remains stable or increases and you reduce the amount of juice being produced via natural gas, what do you think happens next? See the example of California in the last paragraph.

America is now the world’s leading producer of natural gas. And we got there while reducing our emission levels faster than any other country in the Paris Accord. This pointless fight against natural gas production isn’t just stupid. It’s dangerous.