Wall Street Journal:
Battle is Brewing
Cities are considering measures to phase out gas hookups amid climate concerns, spurring some states to outlaw such prohibitions
Some major cities including San Francisco have either enacted or proposed measures to ban or discourage the use of natural gas in new homes.
A growing fight is unfolding across America as cities concerned about climate change consider phasing out natural gas for home cooking and heating.
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. Ohio is considering a similar measure.
The outcome of the battle has the potential to reshape the future of the utility industry, and demand for natural gas, which the U.S. produces more of than any other country.
Proponents of phasing out natural gas say their aim is to reduce planet-warming emissions over time by fully electrifying new homes and buildings as wind and solar farms proliferate throughout the country, making the power grid cleaner.
Homes and businesses account for about 13% of the nation’s annual greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, mostly because natural gas is used in cooking, heating, and washers and dryers. Climate activists say reducing that percentage is critical for states with goals to slash carbon emissions in the coming decades.
Opponents in the gas industry counter by citing the higher costs of making many homes fully electric, and pointing to the added security of having a second home energy source to heat and cook with during extreme weather events. They also highlight the preference many home and professional chefs have for using gas-fired stoves.
New all-electric homes are cost-competitive with those that use gas in many parts of the country, but retrofits can be considerably more expensive, depending on the existing heating and cooking systems and the cost of effectively converting them. A recent study by San Francisco found that retrofitting all housing units that now use natural gas would cost between $3.4 billion and $5.9 billion, costs that would fall on residents, the city or both.
Induction ranges, which use magnets to heat pots and pans directly, can be more expensive to buy than gas ranges, especially in professional kitchens. Restaurant associations across the nation have raised concerns about going electric.