Will More Cities Ban Gas Hookups?

live better electrically

It's not likely to happen up north, especially while gas is so cheap.

When Berkeley, California, became the first city in the USA to ban natural gas hookups in new residential buildings, I ignored it because Berkeley doesn't allow any new residential buildings, so it was all moot. But Susie Cagle wrote in the Guardian that it was just the start.

Although Berkeley may be pushing the vanguard, the city is hardly alone. Governments across the US and Europe are looking at strategies to phase out gas. In California alone, dozens of cities and counties are considering eliminating fossil fuel hook-ups to power stoves and heat homes in new buildings, while California state agencies pencil out new rules and regulations that would slash emissions. Natural gas, it seems, has become the new climate crisis frontline.
Natural gas expansion

Conservative Party of Ontario/via

Here at TreeHugger, we have written that we need to electrify everything and get off gas, while I complain that in Ontario where I live, the government is actually promoting and expanding the gas network throughout the province. "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."


My super-duper two year old high efficiency gas boiler/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Writing for TVO, John Michael McGrath discusses the problem in Ontario, where almost all urban dwellers (including me) keep warm in our cold winters with gas, while those in rural areas rely more on electricity, which has been getting more costly as gas gets cheaper. McGrath writes:

There are clear regional haves and have-nots, and it’s easy for people (like me) who have relatively cheap winter heating to talk about the need to wean society off fossil fuels while others wear multiple layers instead of turning on their baseboard heaters.

It's a political minefield, an urban/rural split. But as McGrath notes,

The good news is that, every year, it gets easier and easier to build homes without natural gas. The “all-electric home” is a growing share of the market in the U.S. At some point, some level of government is going to have to start restricting the sale of new gas-fired homes and appliances. It would all be easier if Ontario’s low-GHG electricity were cheaper, but as things stand, refusing to take climate action because our hydro bills are too high amounts to holding a gun to our own heads and demanding that someone else pay a ransom.
Live better electrically

Live better electrically/Promo image

It has also been shown that the best way to get rid of gas is to simply reduce demand to the point that electric heat is affordable. You do that by cranking up the energy efficiency standards. People who build to the Passivhaus standard often find that they need so little heat that the cost of the gas connection is greater than the savings they would get burning it instead of electricity.

That's why I continue to say Electrify Everything! But you can't do that unless you Reduce Demand! It's hard to have one without the other.