Based upon information gathered up to August 2021, the Institute of Energy Research (IER) published a report summarizing the cities across the United States that have instituted restrictions on natural gas use and those that have provided paths to protect consumer selections. Although they do not seemingly support the current mantra of the federal government and a growing majority opinion, the IER’s data provides an interesting look into the future of energy use.
“We argue that the restrictions on new natural gas hookups are a costly and unnecessary imposition on American energy consumers and that these bans contribute to problems of energy reliability and affordability in states where they are prominent,” reads the IER report, An Overview of Natural Gas Bans in the U.S.
Natural Gas History
According to Alexander Stevens and Paige Lambermont, the IER report writers, the environmental movement has sought out to target specific segments of the energy industry to intentionally harm natural resource development and production. As of today’s battle strategy, the natural gas industry finds itself under fire. Primarily found in California and across the Northeastern United States, 76 cities have handicapped natural gas with restrictions.
Financial ramifications for such a course run high, with natural gas fueling both the residential and commercial sectors. In 2019, residential consumers used 5,015,603 million-cubic-feet of natural gas domestically, with the commercial appetite accounting for 3,512,607 million cubic feet in its own right. Interestingly enough, electric power across the United States accounted for 11,307,426 million cubic feet. With popularity spanning from low natural gas prices, the United States was responsible for 23% of the globe’s natural gas production in that same year of 2019.
Higher energy bills prevail as the primary issue associated with natural gas bans. This poses an increased severity when considering states who traditionally exhibit higher electricity prices.
“Consider California, the state at the forefront of natural gas hookup bans. Last year, the average price of natural gas in California was about $12.30 per million British thermal units (a measure of the heat content of the fuel), according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. For a homeowner with a new, 95-percent efficiency natural-gas furnace or water heater, that translates into a cost of just under $13 per million BTUs,” wrote Jonathon Lesser in a 2019 Wall Street Journal article debating natural gas bans. “Compare that with the cost of electricity, which averaged 18.84 cents a kilowatt-hour in California in 2018, about 50-percent higher than the national average. That works out to $55 per million BTUs, more than four times the cost of natural gas. Even heat pumps for space and water heating can’t bridge that gap.”
Continuing its analysis, the report focuses on the state of California as its litmus test. As of today, the state boasts electricity prices ranking as the sixth highest in the country. Being 47-percent higher than the national average, the California Public Utility Commission approved a rate increase of 8.1%. This increase will reflect an additional $13.44 per month for residential California users.
Evidence reveals that in states such as California who have increasing energy bills paired with natural gas bans lead to an influence of internal poverty problems. Ironically, this end result is an occurrence within the wealthiest of domestic regions.
Another significant concern that keeps energy thinkers up at night is the ramifications of electrifying everything. By banning natural gas, the first to feel the strain is the electric grid. An all-electric demand drastically taxes the grid system. This overwhelming concern mounts as the California power grid has been revealed to be unreliable.
Additionally, natural gas bans revoke consumers’ rights to choose a fuel source that best meets their individual needs. For instance, many commercial chefs rely on gas range stoves.
“An overwhelming majority of chefs and cooks are trained using natural gas stoves, with pots and pans over a flame produced by natural gas. This ban will slow down the process of cooking and reduce a chef’s control over the amount and intensity of heat that is needed to prepare food appropriately. It’s like taking paint away from a painter and asking them to create a masterpiece,” said the California Restaurant Association in a press release.
The residential sector finds itself under the same attack and voices the same contempt. According to the IER report, it would cost an astonishing $1.6 trillion nationwide to convert natural gas sourced residential structures with an all-electric option. On the commercial side, the same conversions would yield a $9 trillion price tag. Summing up a domestic total in exiting from natural gas usage would saddle the country with $18 to $29 trillion in costs. Just narrowing this eye-opening expenditure down to the state of New York, the average citizen can certainly grasp the economical implications of such a path. According to the IER, the Consumer Energy Alliance indicated that New York contains a 60-percent natural gas reliance for its residential constituents. Based on home configuration, labor costs, and reliance, the average household could expect to spend $25,600 in conversion costs.
Bans by State
A large portion of the individual states are experiencing the full court press in electrifying heating and cooking. Gas bans pushed by municipalities are rearing their ugly heads in varying levels of severity, along with different countermeasure strategies implemented by the opposition. The following states have felt the direct effect of the natural gas bans:
- New York
- North Carolina
- West Virginia
Summing It Up
The natural gas saga rages on with an increase in municipalities considering bans on residential gas connections. Counteracting their detriment, the states have passed mandates that would prevent the blocking of natural gas. Origins are clear in this situation as cities led by Democrats typically request the bans, and states led by the Republicans muster the counter-action.
While many states have fallen victim to natural gas bans, some have taken strides to defend the rights of energy consumers in leaving the selection up to them. Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, Iowa, West Virginia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, and Kansas have reigned successfully in passing legislation geared towards preventing municipalities from implementing their bans.
A more grim outcome resides for those cities where the bans have been passed and put into play. Affordable and reliable energy will be a concept of the past as consumers will tote the monumental price increases all for the sake of green energy.