The Fight Over The Future Of Natural Gas

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Keeps your apartment warm Okay i know i know. Our electricity is some mix of renewables. But i'm pretty sure that our heat is gas right and so many people are in exactly the same situation about half of the homes and businesses in the country a burn gas for heat in the winter especially in the cold part of the country. Right plus a lot of people have gas water heaters. This is basically your own little fossil fuel power. Plant right there in your basement and it really adds up between heating homes and businesses burning fossil fuels on site accounts for more than ten percent of the whole country greenhouse emissions. Wow okay all right. And i'm glad we're talking about this because i feel like i remember. Natural gas has been pitched as this cleaner fuel cities. You know buying buses running on compressed natural gas and that's supposed to be a good thing question mark while it is cleaner. It was cleaner than the diesel that those buses were burning. And it's a lot cleaner than coal but you know when you're putting up buildings and installing equipment. That's going to be in place for twenty thirty fifty years. Maybe cleaner isn't good enough anymore. I'm killed really bad about this. Fossil fuel plant. I've got my house now again. Guilt about this is not the point. The point is there is an alternative Another path at least for new buildings and also for when a lot of other buildings you need their furnaces replaced. Okay okay and i talked to one of the people who's pushing this alternative ali hundred mahia cunningham with the natural resources defense council. We're going to have to tackle emissions from pretty much everywhere. The benefit of buildings is that we have the technology. Okay dan what technology we talking about. It's got a name electrification. I like the name. But i i do feel like with electricity. I mean there are greenhouse gas emissions from generating electricity to right right absolutely for now but the thing is if your goal is zero greenhouse emissions burning gas will never get you there but electricity could if it's coming from places like solar and wind and hydro which increasingly it is so the environmentalists are saying if you're putting up a new building making decisions for decades to come. Don't lock yourself into burn guests. Give yourself the chance to be zero. Carbon got it. Okay but what does that. Look like dan. Well let's go to our next story like sitting here. We have tyler holland. Who works with construction company called wiedeman corporation and he is going to give us a little audio tour to explain this whole electrification idea like sixth all electric apartment building that. We've done john reid from our member station k. u. e. r. actually recorded this was masked and socially distanced. Mike was out on the end of a long pole. Now that la this buildings six stories high still under construction not many people around so this is an affordable housing project now in most buildings in salt lake city and really lots of places in the us where it gets cold there would be a pipe underground going into this building. Delivering gas to heating furnaces. But here in this building. There's no gas hookup. Its all electric. Every apartment has an electric heat pump on the wall which takes care of heating and cooling. Okay dan i feel like i should know this. But what what's a heat pump The heat pumps are basically the key to electrification They work pretty. Much like refrigerators. They use compression and expansion of a gas to move heat from outside to inside or the other way around in this case the heat pumps are capturing heat from the air outside and moving it inside the apartment for heating and in summertime. they do the opposite. They'll move heat from the inside to the outside are also heat. Pump water heaters. I will tell you from personal experience. They have gotten so much more efficient and they just work better than they used to. Are they really expensive. Though for big buildings the machines themselves can be more expensive than say a gas furnace or a standard of water heater. Which is why tyler said. They only did their first all electric building. Because there was this environmentally-minded developer give group. That insisted on it. Tyler's company thought this is terrible. It's going to cost a lot extra. But once they started working on it they say turned out to be cheaper. You eliminate gas taps you eliminate running all those gas lines through your building so by not putting all that gas infrastructure in there. You're kind of saving money. Right and now tyler company is totally sold on this. They're sharing their blueprints and budgets with other builders just to show them that it makes sense for business for the climate also just for cleaner air. We everybody to do it. I mean it's it's everybody's air that we're all breathing makes my mountain bike ride that much easier and the basic idea is down the road. This building will have zero greenhouse emissions once. It's getting that electricity from the sun or the wind or from falling water Okay got it. So will we see more building like this around the country. A lot of cities with big climate goals are trying to promote all electric buildings like this. They're really focused. On new construction not so much. Retrofitting existing buildings. Nobody's forcing people a tariff. Their gas furnaces at this point and salt lake city is not considering any formal ban on new gas hookups. Vicki bennett who's director of sustainability. There says they'd like to try persuasion. Incentives maybe expediting building permits at our next step is exploring what sort of incentives would be would make a difference you know what would be enough to get them to pay more attention to going to all electric buildings but there are cities dozens of them mostly in california that have adopted rules that say in one way or another new buildings cannot get connected to gas pipelines anymore So that's what that person from. The american gas association was talking about like at the top of the show. The campaign against gas exactly and that movement reached the third place. We're going to go visit flagstaff. Arizona whom where nicole anti-monopoly is director of sustainability. that was one of our strategies. Could we say no new natural gas in new construction. And this is where they run into the backlash. Yeah i imagine. The gas industry wasn't happy about this. Not really we have seen some internal documents from a meeting of the executive committee of the american gas association last year An environmental watchdog group that climate investigation center obtained these documents through a public records request. And they showed that by late. Two thousand nineteen a group of big gas utilities had already launched a campaign in favor of what they call consumer choice. One of them is southwest gas. The biggest gas provider in arizona and in february of two thousand twenty. The speaker of the arizona state house introduced a bill that makes it illegal for cities in the state to limit gas hookups. Republicans generally supported it and in arizona. The law just sailed through a passed both houses and signed into law within a month. So what does that do to to the city of flagstaff. Plans nicole antenna says it pretty much left them looking for a plan. B it definitely put a huge hurdle in our plans for promoting electrification and fuel switching Instead of requiring developers to go all electric they have to persuade them to the approach. Utah's taking and since then similar bills have passed and three other states and they're being considered in a dozen more cleaning. Florida georgia whole bunch of states. Well so this is my question about the like you know. Consumers can choose. I mean our individual consumers actually choosing here dan or is the developer kind of choosing for the consumer. It is an interesting conflict. You have these states stepping in and they're saying on behalf of consumers although it's also on behalf of the gas suppliers right no you. Cities cannot interfere with the consumer's right to burn gas or the developers right to build a gas burning building and the cities are saying just like we have building codes for public safety. We want to enact rules that will help end climate change and that means no new construction that uses fossil fuels. So they're saying the community is making this choice and we should have the right to choose right. I mean that's what it kind of felt like we were talking about kansas way back at the beginning of the episode. Felt like the folks in lawrence have decided on this goal which is one hundred percent renewable which means down the road. Gas wouldn't be an option like that's the choice. Yeah i asked. Jasmine more. The city of lawrence's director of sustainability. How this would affect your city's plans if it passed. And she said it's kind of hard to tell. But the bill is written. Very broadly it prohibits any municipal ordinance that quote discriminates against restricts limits or impairs. Close the use of a utility. So she's worried that it might even ban city programs that are aimed at promoting energy efficiency since that would reduce gas use. Wow that's pretty intense. Then she also said this no matter what. We'll figure out a way to continue to make progress. She sounds pretty determined. I'll say that yes. She does okay. Dan charles as always we appreciate you. Thanks for bringing this to the show. Thank you

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