As if California wasn’t in enough hot water, lately; the fifth largest economy in the world suffers from fires, floods, earthquakes and riots so regularly they’re often referred to as the state’s four seasons – with “blackouts” sometimes substituting for “riots”. Problems with the electrical grid have begun to seriously threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions of Californians. Still, while political leaders and regulators claim to look for energy solutions that will ease the state’s economic suffering, they apparently keep finding ones that accomplish exactly the opposite.
On November 7th, the Public Utilities Commission will be discussing a ban on natural gas in new homes, and quite possibly all homes and businesses both new and existing. The idea is to eventually complete the full electrification of the state in an attempt to combat greenhouse gases, and while the overall direction of reducing carbon emissions is both responsible and sensible, there’s a solid argument to be made that it’s precisely the wrong thing to do.
The latest estimates report that a ban on natural gas in new homes would result in increased annual energy costs of almost $400 for each and every single-family homeowner in the state. And if one were to take into account the cost of replacing appliances that used with natural gas, the cost explodes to approximately $7,200 per household. Add up the total estimated statewide cost to residents and the numbers fall somewhere between $4 billion and $6 billion. In terms of a total cost that includes conversion of transmission and storage systems has yet to be determined for fear the finally tally will cause researchers to literally faint (not really, but maybe).
Another major hole in the Public Utilities Commission’s plan to transform California into a gas-free state is the fact that natural gas from California’s buildings makes up only 9 percent of the total amount of emitted greenhouse gases. Of that amount, residential structures only account for 2 percent of that figure, which by any measurement seems minor and hardly worth a major and costly overhaul of the entire power generation system. But it’s not as if the PUC doesn’t actually know this. Their cost/benefit analysis produced the same results, which should have given them major pause. Instead, the organization decided to cut the lights on that data and remove the concept of cost-effectiveness as part of the required criteria to their own fuel replacement rules. Regardless of the minimum of benefit that move would bring, the cost is nonetheless somehow acceptable.
Even if one were to ignore the effect that such a costly—and ultimately pointless—program would have on the community at large, its damaging effects on those in poverty would be devastating. The same could be said for disadvantaged business owners. And school districts. And city facilities. And hospitals, jails – the list becomes dizzying, especially when one considers that the whole difference will be paid for by the very people the legislation is supposedly designed to protect: the California taxpayer.
When one considers that natural gas has been the single largest factor in California’s CO2 reductions over the past 10 to 15 years, the move towards a ban becomes even more preposterous. Cleaner-burning natural gas has helped California greatly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, and new technology continues to be developed to convert gases from garbage dumps and dairy waste to useable, natural and renewable sources of energy. In fact, Graver Technologies Industrial Filter Division designs and manufactures filtration systems for a number of natural gas applications.
There are many ways to reduce carbon emissions: wind farms, solar panels, electric vehicles, and nuclear reactors. For such a large state with such a robust economy to focus so comprehensively on completely electrifying its infrastructure—particularly when that infrastructure is so commonly under attack—seems heavily misguided, to say the least.