As Cities Grapple With Climate Change, Gas Utilities Fight To Stay In Business

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Industry toward electric and others a similar push around buildings. Another big source of heat trapping gases natural gas utilities. Worry that electrifying. Homes and offices may jeopardize the gas industries future. Npr's jeff brady has the first part of an investigation into how the industry is fighting back in recent years natural gas. Got a bit of a halo. It helped reduce carbon emissions as gas fired power plants replace dirtier coal ones. But that's no longer good enough. As more cities. Businesses and now the biden administration seek to completely zero out greenhouse gas emissions including from buildings if the goal is to reduce emissions. Were all in if the goal is to put us out of business not so much. Karen harbored heads. The american gas association the main trade group for gas utilities that serve tens of millions of homes and businesses. These days members spend a lot of time touting the cleaner alternatives they're developing so called renewable natural gas and hydrogen but to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Scientists say quicker action is needed. Most researchers like aaron mayfield at princeton university have concluded that switching away from gas to electricity is the most efficient way to eliminate carbon emissions from most buildings by twenty fifty. We cannot continue using natural gas or things like heating in cooking because it's not consistent with reaching a net zero goal president biden's ambitious climate plan includes incentives to switch from to electric furnaces and appliances. That was a concern at an industry conference just after the november election. Npr obtained a recording. Aga vice president sue forrester said. The plan would mean nothing less than eliminating natural gas. Our goal is to reframe the debate around natural gas into really show value proposition of natural gas and our energy infrastructure. And how we're going to be key to a clean energy future. Even before biden was elected the industry saw the electrification push coming. It doubled down on its cooking with gas campaign that included young social media influencers. Hey guys. I remember kelly from cook with amber. The first thing we gotta do is heat up our pants. I'm going to turn our so on about. Some of the industry's other efforts are more aggressive but less public. Its lobbying to pass state laws barring local governments from restricting gas use in new buildings this after more than forty california communities band new gas hookups or restricted gas use in order to meet their climate goals. Npr reviewed internal aga documents obtained through public records request by the climate investigation center. They show that these state laws became a priority for the gas association at least as far back as december twenty nineteen so far. Four states have passed these so-called preemption bills and eleven more money republican led states are considering them again. Karen harbored coordinating these efforts. We are not state lobbyists We concentrate our activities certainly at the federal level. The distinction is important much of. Aj's budget comes from ratepayers through. Its member utilities. That means you as a ratepayer could be funding this work even if you don't agree with it in california. The country's largest gas utility socal gas faces possible fines for allegedly using rate payer money to oppose municipal electrification efforts allegations. The company denies it's clear from internal communication that the aga is at least serving as a clearinghouse for the utilities and local gas associations promoting preemption bills around the country. Robert brule is visiting professor at brown university who researches campaigns like this there are textbooks and this is a textbook example of this kind of information and influence campaign operation. That campaign is framed in customer choice terms that people should be able to choose what kind of energy they use in their homes. Brule says the risk is that it will help. Stall climate action. Further

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