Cities, States Clash Over New Hook Ups To Natural Gas
There is no place for homebuilders to duck and cover in the crossfire between blue dot cities and red state governments over the battle to phase out natural gas in homes.
The battle pits Democrat-leaning cities and their electorates versus Republican Party-led state lawmakers and governors.
Caught in the polarized and politicized crossfire are homebuilders and apartment construction firms.
Rock, meet hard place.
Wall Street Journal staffer Kathleen Blunt frames an intensifying scrum this way:
A growing fight is unfolding across the U.S. as cities consider phasing out natural gas for home cooking and heating, citing concerns about climate change, and states push back against these bans.
Major cities including San Francisco, Seattle, Denver and New York have either enacted or proposed measures to ban or discourage the use of the fossil fuel in new homes and buildings, two years after Berkeley, Calif., passed the first such prohibition in the U.S. in 2019.
The bans in turn have led Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kansas and Louisiana to enact laws outlawing such municipal prohibitions in their states before they can spread, arguing that they are overly restrictive and costly. Ohio is considering a similar measure.
Bans on natural gas use in new construction are not breaking news, as USA Today reported here in November, 2019. What should be a business issue, which should be a customer focus and satisfaction issue, has become a Red-Blue fracus.
Urban metro areas – where electability connects with progressive policy on measures to avert climate collapse – have exerted sovereign powers to ban new development and construction that includes natural gas powered heat and appliances.
State officials – who are elected by voters who do not ascribe to belief in the necessity for action on carbon emissions reduction to ward off global warming – have sided with natural gas industry interests in measures to prevent bans on such construction and fossil fuel use.
Blunt notes key positions and arguments on each side of the fray:
Homes and businesses account for about 13% of the nation’s annual greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, mostly because natural gas is used in cooking, heating, and washers and dryers. Climate activists say reducing that percentage is critical for states with goals to slash carbon emissions in the coming decades.
Opponents in the gas industry counter by citing the higher costs of making many homes fully electric, and pointing to the added security of having a second home energy source to heat and cook with during extreme weather events. They also highlight the preference many home and professional chefs have for using gas-fired stoves.
The reality check here for builders and their partners:
- Municipal agencies and officials are largely where builders' and developers' bread is buttered, and those elected officials represent critical alliances in future business plans.
- Customer education on total lifetime operating costs versus initial costs could sway more homebuyers and households to weigh their power options anew.
- Customers' children, and their children become a factor in business decisions in connection to environment strategy and commitment.