Just what we needed in what was a decarbonizing planet.
It seems like only yesterday that we were writing about how the Netherlands was banning natural gas and disconnecting buildings. The province of Ontario was decarbonizing too, with the previous Liberal government getting rid of coal, investing in renewables, and retubing its fleet of nuclear reactors. But this was expensive, and the price of electricity became a big issue in the recent election won by Doug Ford and the Conservative party.
So now Doug is announcing a big expansion of gas through rural and northern Ontario, "thanks to an innovative partnership with local communities and the private sector."
I've heard from businesses that natural gas expansion is important to grow and compete. By cancelling the cap-and-trade carbon tax, we have already acted to lower natural gas prices. We will now ensure that the benefits of natural gas expansion are shared throughout Ontario.— Doug Ford (@fordnation) September 19, 2018
Natural gas infrastructure is really expensive in low-density rural Ontario, and once people are hooked up, that's pretty much it for the life of the house; they are baking in the carbon emissions for decades. And to be fair, the previous Liberal Government proposed a gas expansion as a pre-election ploy, but far more limited. Doug says this will reach over 70 communities and 38,000 customers. What does this actually mean?
- According to Stats Canada, the average Ontario house uses 92 Gigajoules of gas per year.
- There are 56 Kg of CO2 emissions per gigajoule, so each house running on Natural Gas is contributing 5,152 kg of CO2, or 5.152 metric tons.
- If all 38,000 customers go gas, that's 195,776 tons of CO2 emissions.
- The average car emits 4.6 metric tons of CO2 per year, so this decision is equivalent to putting 42,560 cars on the road.
UPDATE: A reader points out that a lot of people in rural Ontario heat with propane or oil, so that the number will not be as high as I claim. It is true that converting from them to natural gas would reduce their carbon footprint. According to Tyler Hamilton writing for TVO, "Households that use oil would reduce their emissions by 27 percent if they switched to natural gas. Switching from propane to natural gas would result in a 16 percent reduction in emissions." However, the majority of houses not on natural gas are heated by electricity.