Gov. Jay Inslee inappropriately used our state’s building codes to ban natural gas in new homes and commercial buildings. Now, the Biden Administration is going a step further issuing rules that drastically clamp down on natural gas used in heating and air conditioning units.
Inslee’s regulations phase out fossil fuels used for heating water and cooking in new buildings by 2030. They were the first steps to eliminating natural gas in and around the house.
Biden’s Dept. of Energy (DOE) proposes overly restrictive efficiency standards for home heating and air conditioning by 2028. Those rules are expensive for home and building owners, many of whom switched to energy efficient natural gas heat pumps.
When the DOE unveiled the directives last year, the American Gas Association (AGA) commented: “DOE would force many consumers to replace their natural gas furnaces with other equipment that is more expensive to operate in order to avoid the enormous cost of remodeling their homes.”
AGA calculates the new rule prohibits between 40-60% of home gas furnaces. They would result in higher overall costs for one in five gas furnace consumers, including 15% of senior-only households, 14% of low-income households, and 20% of small business.
Both Biden and Inslee actions overlook significant air quality improvements resulting from switching to cleaner burning natural gas.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks. It shows that annual greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from natural gas declined 69% from 1990 to 2019. During this same period natural gas utilities added more than 788,000 miles of pipeline to serve 21 million more customers.
The Biden-Inslee goal is to replace natural gas with electricity, yet Biden and Inslee along with Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) support removal of four lower Snake River dams in our state.
Northwest Rivers Partners estimate breaching the lower Snake River dams requires an additional 14,900 megawatts (MW) of electricity generation —enough electricity to power 15 cities the size of Seattle. It would require three million solar panels occupying 6,000 acres to replace the dams’ generating capacity.
Replacement green-house gas free electricity is hard to find if proponents continue to insist on eliminating natural gas, coal and nuclear power plants which furnish more than 75 percent of our nation’s electricity.
Switching from natural gas to electricity is complicated and will impact everyone. Natural gas dependency is widespread. More than 95% of our everyday products are derived from or powered by natural gas.
With reference to Washington, Rep. Mary Dye (R-Pomroy) added: “It is a big industry because it provides warmth for about 1.2 million residences, there is 107,000 commercial buildings and 3,500 industrial buildings that are working under clean, efficient, reliable natural gas. Plus, it fires about 11 percent of our electricity grid. So, you are talking a large labor force.”
Nationally, natural gas produced the most electricity in 2020 — more than 40%. Renewables, including hydro, wind and solar, accounted for 20%.
At present, electricity is affordable in Washington state — the lowest in the 50 states for residential customers— but adding new generating capacity is expensive and will drive power rates higher for families, medical facilities, schools and businesses.
While natural gas electrical generation is important, natural gas availability is vital to some smaller communities. For example, the cities of Enumclaw and Ellensburg are the natural gas providers to 9,000 customers.
Renewable natural gas (RNG) from farms, garbage landfills and waste conversion systems feed gas into the current pipeline system. That gas would otherwise dissipate in the atmosphere.
It is time to look at the impact of natural gas bans and realize this senseless attack endangers American farms, families, and factories.
Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer, and columnist living in Vancouver, Wa. He can be contacted at theBrunells@msn.com.