New York recently reached an agreement to become the first state to ban natural gas hookups in new construction, heralding a new era of consumer restrictions.
The ban would come into effect for new construction from 2026, according to the budget agreement announced by Governor Hochul. With that deal, the state thwarted Biden’s Department of Energy, which released draft regulations that would effectively ban 50% of the gas range market. Both Biden and Hochul tout their bans as efforts to shift from natural gas consumption to “zero-emission” renewable electricity. By doing so, they hope to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, slow climate change and avoid indoor air pollution.
The problem is that natural gas bans are unlikely to work that way, and in the meantime they limit consumer choice and undermine the innovation that has led the United States to cleaner, safer technologies. . Prioritizing climate change concerns over all others will only serve to prevent consumers from using the type of energy that best suits their situation.
There is also the question of whether the ban will be reversed. A federal appeals court ruled in April that Berkeley, California’s 2019 gas stove ban was overridden by the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975, which gives the latest word on power usage restrictions for appliances. The Ninth Circuit’s decision is not binding on New York, but its logic may guide anticipated legal challenges to New York’s ban.
Unlike the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which in January 2023 cited “hidden dangers” and childhood asthma as reasons to consider the ban, Governor Hochul is not promoting the measure as a health concern. and security.
Instead, he praised the state budget for prioritizing “domestic climate action.” But – constitutionality aside – the natural gas ban is unlikely to have the impact Ms Hochul might hope. Electricity is mostly produced with natural gas, and renewables currently represent only a small fraction of generation capacity and have significant environmental costs to produce.
In 2021, natural gas represents 32% of energy consumption in the United States. 38% of households used natural gas for cooking in 2020 and 61% for any end use. New York’s ban goes beyond restricting the use of natural gas stoves, prohibiting natural gas hookups in newly constructed small buildings by 2026 and large buildings by 2028. However , New York consumers have clearly revealed their preference for natural gas, as 58.7% of New York households used natural gas for home heating in 2021. Many households that use natural gas today natural gas might prefer to keep it, especially during the brutal New York winters.
Ms. Hochul also said New York will be “the first state in the nation to promote new zero-emission homes and buildings.” That’s not entirely true: gas-fired power plants now account for nearly three-fifths of New York’s generating capacity. So the ban is likely to simply shift gas consumption and emissions from households to utilities as power companies scramble to meet the increased demand for these “zero emissions” homes. Nuclear power will not be able to catch up, as it accounts for only a quarter of New York’s generating capacity and is shrinking due to reactor retirements, despite its safe and reliable track record.
While Ms. Hochul can hope that non-hydropower renewables — which currently account for less than 10% of New York’s generating capacity — will become mainstream over the next three years and generate power for these new “zero-emissions” homes. “truly zero-emission, non-renewable hydro energy. Wind and solar power must be combined with battery storage to ensure episodic power is available for on-demand use. The manufacture of batteries, as well as wind turbines and solar panels, requires electricity – possibly generated by coal or natural gas. Wind and solar energy also generate high levels of non-recyclable waste and require the extraction of toxic elements such as lithium and cadmium, which are mainly produced overseas with lower environmental and labor standards than ‘in the USA.
Consumers can choose to use electric cookers on their own initiative, but forcing them to use technologies that aren’t optimal for their individual circumstances won’t make climate causes any more appealing – especially when those methods aren’t likely to deliver the environmental benefits they promise. The free market will continue to improve emission-free energy technologies, but imposing certain technologies may actually slow the pace of innovation while limiting consumer choice.
Top-down policies such as New York’s natural gas hookup ban and proposed Department of Energy (DOE) emissions standards limit consumer choice and undermine innovation. If Ms. Hochul and the Biden administration are seriously concerned about climate change, they better let the free market do its job.