Save Natural Gas
Natural gas and renewable gas are an important source of diversified, reliable and affordable energy. But, recently, in the last couple of years, progressive governments have started to propose banning natural gas in homes. This is surprising when not many years ago, natural gas was promoted and incentivized as a solution to pollution. Billions were spent on CNG bus fleets, government incentives for efficient gas appliances, conversion of coal to natural gas electric generation plants... just to name a few.
However, the politics have changed. Gas bans are now proposed as part of a decarbonization strategy in order to combat climate change. On the surface, it seems reasonable to suggest that not using natural gas - a fossil fuel - will reduce carbon emissions. And we should be doing something about the planet, of course. But banning gas means the energy used in homes we use will be all be electric or biomass (which is also on their radar).
Here are some reasons just banning gas might not be so great as a strategy right now:
Lack of capacity
- Studies have shown we do not have the capacity to generate enough electricity from renewable sources alone (wind and solar). So, this electricity will need to be purchased from electrical generation from coal and gas from other states.
- The electrical grid in this country, Oregon included, is not capable of distributing electricity effectively since much of it comes from remote areas in Eastern Oregon. Our power grid is good at distributing power from the dams on the Columbia River in a mostly north - south direction, but not in an east to west direction. Millions if not billions of dollars will need to be invested to ensure intermittent renewable electricity is there when its needed.
Resilient, reliable and affordable energy
- Homeowners want to ensure they will have heat when the power goes out. That's why they like natural gas, which is affordable and available in that situation. Gas fireplaces, water heaters, HVAC systems, and cookstoves provide backup energy in an affordable way.
- Pipelines used to distribute gas can also be used to distribute renewable natural gas and renewable hydrogen, both of which are emerging technologies. Banning gas means a tremendous waste of this infrastructure.
- Have economists done enough modeling to show how the energy markets will handle it when it's all electric? This makes electric energy production and distribution a monopoly. We all know what happens to prices when there's a monopoly.
Not in my backyard
- Batteries that are being touted as a solution to power outages have their own issues. The human and environmental costs of mining of minerals and disposal of batteries have not been fully researched or discussed.
- Most of the electricity will need to be purchased from electrical generation from coal and gas - from other states. Of course, those are fossil fuels. So, one way or another, getting enough electricity requires fossil fuels, at least now an in the foreseeable future. Sure, a city council can say, "see, we have a zero emissions city", but that's just a not in my backyard argument.
Learn about recent developments in renewable natural gas and efforts to fight gas bans through these resources:
Eugene Gas Ban Proposal, website for community engagement: Eugene Community Engagement Portal (engagenwnatural.com)
Partnership for Energy Progess: www.pepnw.org
What can I do?
- Learn about the arguments made for banning gas and why they are flawed.
- Write, call or visit your city councilors, legislators and congress people.
- Inform your customers that gas bans are being considered in your city. If you live in Eugene or Milwaukie, these proposals are on their agenda. Don't think they "can't do that" because they can and will unless you do something about it.