Berkeley Bans New Natural Gas Connections Because Climate Change

Berkeley Downtown
Berkeley downtown Bay bridge SF in back from Lab. By User:IntrovertOwn work, CC BY-SA 2.5, Link

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Homes and businesses which currently use gas will be allowed to continue, for now. Some businesses may receive an exemption.

Berkeley became first US city to ban natural gas. Here’s what that may mean for the future

Susie Cagle in Oakland
Wed 24 Jul 2019 04.34 BST

The California city on Tuesday voted to ban natural gas hook-ups in new buildings, in a historic move

Berkeley this week became the first city in the United States to ban natural, fossil gas hook-ups in new buildings.

The landmark ordinance was passed into law on Tuesday, after being approved unanimously by the city council the previous week amid resounding public support.

Although Berkeley may be pushing the vanguard, the city is hardly alone. Governments across the US and Europe are looking at strategies to phase out gas. In California alone, dozens of cities and counties are considering eliminating fossil fuel hook-ups to power stoves and heat homes in new buildings, while California state agencies pencil out new rules and regulations that would slash emissions.

Natural gas, it seems, has become the new climate crisis frontline.

Landmark move

Berkeley’s ordinance, which goes into effect on 1 January, will ban gas hook-ups in new multi-family construction, with some allowances for first-floor retail and certain types of large structures.

“The Southern California Gas Company is just not coming to the table on this,” said Bartholomy. “They aren’t providing any vision to meet our climate targets.”

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/23/berkeley-natural-gas-ban-environment

The new berkeley ordinance is available here (meeting minutes here).

The ordinance contains some rather intriguing claims, talking about the alleged toxicity of indoor cookers, stranded assets, and a claim that natural gas is useless during an electricity outage because modern gas appliances need electricity.

The report claims that gas is a serious hazard in an earthquake. That seems plausible, though I’m not an expert on earthquake damage – fallen power lines are also a potential hazard.

The ordinance includes a very well paid staff position to enforce the new ordinance, $237,341 per year for two years. Interestingly it looks like the two year term of the new position was a late amendment, an earlier draft suggested the new position is a permanent position.

Perhaps Berkeley are planning for the possibility of failure.

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94 thoughts on “Berkeley Bans New Natural Gas Connections Because Climate Change

    • I live in what some consider northern Berkley so I’m sure the gas ban is coming but wood stoves wont help. Here they ban burning of wood by air quality measurement and if you have another source of heat. Bad air, another source of heat (no matter how expensive) then no using your wood stove. Enforced by driving around looking/ smelling for wood smoke with a hefty ticket backing it up. Since air quality can be considered bad for days, weeks to months at a time there’s an effective ban on wood stoves.

      • Suppose you have electric heat, but the electricity is too unreliable? I can see problems coming on a cold winter night when everyone has their electric heat on and the wind isn’t blowing … Electric heat can consume as much or more electric power as AC.

    • I predict the city will fall into the ocean in the BIG ONE so who gives a rat’s patutey.

  1. I used to live the other side of the hills from Berkeley, in Concord, and Berkeley was notorious for radicalism. In one city council election, the most “conservative” candidate was a member of the regular Communist Party (CPUSA), as differentiated from the Workers World Party or the Revolutionary Communist Party.
    Berkekey hasn’t changed much in the 14 years since I moved to Texas.

    • They would probably require a dose of Beano be served with any order of black beans and rice., and negotiate a kickback from the distributor.

  2. What more inane, pointless gesture could a city council make? Natural gas is the cleanest, lowest CO2 emitting, most versatile common fuel. The only ordinance more draconian would be to ban fire entirely — and send humanity backwards 120,000 years until we’re living like apes again.

    Is that retrograde nonsense worthy of a snooty college town?

    • Tom Gelsthorpe: The state of California is planning to pass legislation to apply this stupidity to the whole state.

      • Let then go for it; it is is the fastest way for Dark Greens to come to their senses in bitter cold and chaos.

    • It is also the MOST efficient type of fuel possible! Both my tankless WH and Forced air furnace are 97% efficient! Now tell me what the transmission loss is with electricity? Add to that the inefficiency of wind and solar power generated electricity … and you start to learn why all those things were REJECTED … naturally … by the Free Marketplace … because they’re stupid. Who killed the electric car? It killed itself. It’s not as practical and versatile as an ICE engine. Same thing for natural gas powered appliances over electric ones.

      And will there be an EXCEPTION granted for Chinese restaurants? An electric wok? In a commercial Chinese kitchen!? Not gonna happen. But of course there will be “cultural” EXCEPTIONS to the NO-Nat.Gas Ord.

      • Kenji,

        I thought your 97% was a joke referencing the consensus. A quick search shows that rating for both water heaters and furnaces. I am not Loydo, I do look around.

        When I built my last home we installed 90+ furnace and water heater, I don’t remember 97% then, 12 years ago. They may have been out of my price range.

        BTW, as is typical of conservatives, we built for efficiency knowing, in general, spending a little more now for a higher efficiency and in general better built appliance will repay the added expense over time. Ex. Instantaneous WH, condensing furnace, front load washer, gas dryer and propane back up generator. All still functioning, no needed repairs, just need to flush the WH now and again due to the well water.

        We live in an area that has only one power transmission line in, with 5000 lots served. Can’t get a second line due to being surrounded by US federal controlled land. Putting in a second line would be an eyesore, don’t you know. It sure is nice to wake in the middle of the night during a snow storm to the sound of the genset running after power went out from, usually, a downed tree on the main line miles away. Best $5,000 I ever spent. They are cheaper now.

        I wonder if anyone will be able to supply their houses with propane instead of the outlawed natural gas. As least then the piping will be in place when natural gas is later allowed. Don’t forget to up-size the piping inside the house for natural gas, propane sizes are smaller.

    • Dear Mr Gelsthorpe, you have at one & the same time got it & not got it! The only true “natural” gas the ruling Elites are seeking, is one like the one in that great epsiode of Star Trek (original) whereby the wealthy intellectual highly educated elites, live in towns/cities in the sky, with a luxurious lifestyle sustained purely by the lowly peasantry due to their low intellect & limited brain power, as a result of mining the gas that supported the aforementioned lifestyle! The gas made the peasants aggressive, stupid, unthinking, in fact incapable of such as a result! It was only when “equality” was established through good ol’ Cap’n ( I must have more thrust Scotty) Kirk! That after all is what Globul Socialist Rule by the Intellectual Elites is all about! The silver/small screen has been foretelling such an outcome for 50 years or so now, perhaps we should start to listen & learn? PS I do hope there won’t be any “anti-climate” protests in the UK for a while, I’d just hate it if that great environmentalist Emma Thompson flew 4000 miles from LA to London for acouple of hours to protest, then flew all the way home again straight afterwards, unicorns are so useful I don’t know why the aviation industry haven’t cornered the market there!

  3. So instead of burning gas in high efficiency heaters, they are going to use heat pumps powered by electricity from power plants powered by natural gas and coal.
    Modern space heaters have close to twice the efficiency of a natural gas power plant, and that’s without mentioning the transmission losses and the inefficiencies of a heat pump.

    • Berkeley has about half the heating degree days as Detroit. I’m guessing that with good thermal management, it requires a lot less than half the BTUs.

  4. The natural gas ordinance was introduced by Councilwoman Kate Harrison. After its passage, Harrison thanked the community and her colleagues “for making Berkeley the first city in California and the United States to prohibit natural gas infrastructure.”

    I looked at electkateharrison.com and learned that
    “Kate comes from three generations of women activists, fighting for justice and equity.”

    • If I am remembering correctly, when I was at school in the 70’s, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts banned new gas hookups owing to a lack of pipeline capacity. Does anyone else remember that, or am I just imagining it?

      • I remember that too. Homes built during the ban had to use electric heat and their resale value was naturally lower.

        • I think Massachusetts is back at it again too, based on the same reason as the ’70s, lack of pipeline capacity. But you can bet that will morph into a permanent ban based on “climate ” bullshit even if the pipeline capacity grows to meet additional demand.

          Oh, and since any such new pipeline capacity will have to come through New York in all likelihood, see the post above.

          Feds are gonna have to step in using the “interstate commerce” issue to step on states trying to force their Eco-Nazism on other states at some point.

        • Hopefully the result of this stupidity will be businesses fleeing New York en masse as New York continues to unnecessarily clamp down on, you know, ENERGY USE, and then all those skyscrapers in NYC can become crack houses. It can be a shining example to the world of the “results” that can be “achieved” with “climate policies.”

      • Third generation- that’s the problem. Neither she nor her elders have the slightest idea what it’s like in the real world- the one that most of us inhabit, where you have to, you know, work ‘n stuff. I’ve seen it close to home here in the UK with a couple who are both teachers, the parents civil servants or teachers and their daughter just entering the teaching profession. She’s been brought up without any influence from planet reality and a conversation with her parents showed it was clear that they had no idea what it’s like to wonder if your job or business is going to go under due to some ivory tower thinkers or eco/socialist meddling, or whether you might actually have a pension at the end of it. So you have these cossetted people teaching kids and deciding what we can and can’t do and wondering why us stupid, uneducated slobs don’t just get with the program. I grew up looking to America as the champion of freedom and enterprise but it looks like you have it worse than we do!

  5. As they ban natural gas hookups, these same shallow thinkers will allow retailers across their city to sell goods produced over seas in coal-powered factories with under-paid labor.

    • On second thought, they are probably not shallow thinkers – they’re just responding to their green base.

  6. On another note, Berkeley is also removing all “gendered” language from their city code. Need I say more?

  7. Gas stoves with electronic ignition can still be lit the old-fashioned way if the electronics fail–with a match. Gas is cheaper than electric and much superior for cooking. I suppose propane grills are next, then any fire of any kind, including the candles on your birthday cake. With California going totally renewables, when the electricity fails, as it surely will, everyone will be sitting around in the dark. Now we’re not cooking with gas.

        • And you? Do you cook for your wife occasionally? Personally I make a rather good hot curry. No need for a heater after that.

    • Every year, I read stories about some immigrant family from Japasia who all perish from asphyxiation… because they set up a charcoal burning hibachi in the middle of the living room to cook … just like in their home country, in their Yurts.

      I look forward to reading many more of those stories in Berkeley.

    • My gas cooktop igniter is powered by an AA battery that I replaced this year for the first time after 15 years of use.

      No mains power or matches required

    • I live in an area where you will die if your house loses heat for long enough. example I have a battery backup for my gas furnace. There’s no feasible battery backup for electric heat.

      On the other hand, we are in love with induction cookers. We have always cooked with gas because it provides much better control. One of our friends got an induction range and it’s just as good that way. The big plus is that they don’t have to worry about whether they turned off the stove when they’re away from home.

    • They should be sending SWAT teams into children’s birthday parties to blow the candles out, confiscate them, and recycle them for some holier purpose. Not only are birthday candles an unnecessary and unsustainable emitter of CO2, but the wax is made from petroleum. Sin! Sin! Perhaps you can “let them eat cake,” just as long as it hasn’t been baked in an oven, or the ingredients produced with modern machinery. If the so-called cake is just a puddle of slime, all the better for inculcating the lesson of misery and self-denial. “Scavenge like rats — for the greater glory of Mother Earth!”

      If you want to build a better world, you’ve got to terrify those six year-olds before they have a chance to think for themselves. The earlier the indoctrination starts, and the more ferociously you enforce it with heavily-armed, brutal Blue Meanies, the more effective the campaign is apt to be. You can have the kids begging to return to the Stone Age by the time they’re twelve years old.

    • No they can’t. But gas appliances with “standing pilot lights” will operate without electricity. There are some controls that have battery back-up electronic ignitions, but they are not common. Electronic ignition systems have flame proving devices that require electricity to operate. Unfortunately, standing pilots have been nearly regulated out of existence in the US due to the green obsession with CO2 emissions. But if you have a gas water heater and gas fired room heater that have good old standing pilots, you’ll have heat and hot water even if there is an extended electric power failure.

      • Rick, on ovens, yes. However, my stovetop and grill (both recent models and name brands) do not have any such restriction. Several times, I have lit the stove via match so that I can get some hot coffee during a power outage.

    • Gas is king for the stove. But, when you ask professional chefs, they will all prefer an electric oven for two reasons, gas is too dry and gas affects the taste of some foods. However, being a free-market person, I believe that you can buy whatever the h*** you want

  8. Laundromats, restaurants, spas, etc make extensive use of natural gas for efficient heating and cooking. and won’t be satisfied with heat pumps.

    There are always self-loathing nihilists who are forever looking for ways to reduce or destroy human flourishing.

    • Dear Mr Gelsthorpe, you have at one & the same time got it & not got it! The only true “natural” gas the ruling Elites are seeking, is one like the one in that great epsiode of Star Trek (original) whereby the wealthy intellectual highly educated elites, live in towns/cities in the sky, with a luxurious lifestyle sustained purely by the lowly peasantry due to their low intellect & limited brain power, as a result of mining the gas that supported the aforementioned lifestyle! The gas made the peasants aggressive, stupid, unthinking, in fact incapable of such as a result! It was only when “equality” was established through good ol’ Cap’n ( I must have more thrust Scotty) Kirk! That after all is what Globul Socialist Rule by the Intellectual Elites is all about! The silver/small screen has been foretelling such an outcome for 50 years or so now, perhaps we should start to listen & learn? PS I do hope there won’t be any “anti-climate” protests in the UK for a while, I’d just hate it if that great environmentalist Emma Thompson flew 4000 miles from LA to London for acouple of hours to protest, then flew all the way home again straight afterwards, unicorns are so useful I don’t know why the aviation industry haven’t cornered the market there!

  9. I expect this natural gas hookup ban to increase natural gas usage – to supply the electricity at combined generation, transmission and distribution efficiency around 35-40% for the electric stoves, electric dryers and electric water heaters that Berkeley wants to be used instead of natural gas ones. As for heating new buildings: I expect they’ll use electricity as Berkeley desires, or oil which produces more CO2 per BTU produced and much more CO and orders of magnitude more particulates in comparison to natural gas heat. I expect the electricity demand increase, boosted by electric appliaces used in place of natural gas ones prohibited by the ban on new gas hookups, to be faster than the increase of supply of California-approved “green electricity” for at least 12 years or until this nonsense bites Berkeley in the ***. And I expect the boost of burning natural gas (or worse-still other fossil fuels) from this to not reverse before 2050, unless California reverses its population growth and economic growth.

    • Not necessarily. With a really good CCGT powerplant plus a really good heat pump the amount of CO2 will be just about the same.

      • I’ll bet PG&E is dancing a jig. They make a much bigger profit on electricity than nat gas.
        People also defacto voted to raise their utility bills by 50%, I’m guessing.
        The only type of WH they can use is a heat pump WH (std resistance electric are effectively banned by code) which has a lot of problems that haven’t been ironed out.
        When people have no idea how something works, they can be conviced of anything.

        • Gee, I just can’t imagine why “The Southern California Gas Company is just not coming to the table on this,” said Bartholomy. “They aren’t providing any vision to meet our climate targets.”

  10. The people Berkeley should give their heads a shake.
    Naw, they should just stand still and the Hayward Fault will shake their heads for them.
    Any day now.
    Seriously.

  11. This is par for the course in The Peoples Republic of Berzerkely. When I was there back in the 80s, I recall they declared the city a “nuclear-free” zone. The primary impact was to re-paint the signs on the medical Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Institute to the Magnetic Resonance Institute. There, no more nukes.

  12. More natural gas for Arizona with lower prices due to less demand.
    Win-Win.

    Besides California regulators aren’t allowing new gas pipelines to bring more in, so the city really is doing what it must, no new connections. All in all, it’ll just diminish the working middle class in California via an ever-higher cost of living. Steyer owns Sacramento Democrats. This is what he is paying for.

  13. In the 50+ years I’ve lived nearby, it’s always been and (I see) continues to be, Berzerkley.
    Lottsa idiots and ignoramuses in charge.

    • Yeah, to New Yorkers, and other easterners, there are two cities in California. Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Which assumption annoyed the majority of the Californians who lived in neither, and bemoaned the failure of outsiders to notice the differences.

  14. More shoot, ready, aim from California. They just announced $ support for a gas energy plant in Utah to replace a coal fired one that provides CA with 20% of their electricity. But it’s OK because it’s not located in CA. Hypocrites to the core.

  15. Just more of the Progressive war on the middle class, by making people more dependent upon increasingly expensive and soon to be less reliable electricity. Electricity is a far less efficient way to purchase heat than natural gas. Soon, the very same people behind this nonsense will be demanding subsidies for the poor because of the very “energy insecurity” they themselves promote.

  16. Berkeley is a “nuclear free zone”. At the same time, a highly radioactive element, atomic number 97 is known as Berkelium (Bk). The irony doesn’t just burn, it irradiates.

  17. Note that the ordinance bans natural gas in new multi-family buildings. I wondered why only “multi-family”, then I realized that Berkeley has been developed for a long time. There are probably very few (if any) new single family homes being built in Berkeley.

    Probably any new residential construction is from demolishing a single family home and building a 6 unit apartment in it’s place.

    They haven’t yet banned natural gas in existing structures, so the effect on CO2 emissions is probably going to be minuscule. More virtue signaling.

    • With the high price of rent/mortgages in that area, a single family home could conceivably turn into a multi-family unit (just a pedestrian attempt at humor here).

  18. I am always a generous person. Berkeley should be helped in their crusade against the evil of carbon. No “black” electrons should be allowed to pass their city limits, only “green” electrons. No fossil fuels or, indeed, any petroleum or methane based substances.

    Come to think of it, K-Y Jelly is actually composed of several organic (read “evil carbon”) compounds.

    Yes, they should get what they say they want – good and hard, without lubrication.

  19. This is a net increase in CO2 emissions. All it does is shift the emission point and decrease the efficiency.

    California has become the sorting hat for nincompoops. Anyone with common sense and ability will leave.

  20. Surely the whole chain of idiot decisions made by layers of California government must be rich case study material. As the like to trumpet the briiliance of their initiatives there is no shortage of material.

  21. WOW! Berkeley has taken action that will solve all of the Earths climate problems so we no longer need to spend any more time and money on the climate issue.

  22. Everyone will buy a woodburner and suddenly all those trees you see in the picture will disappear.

  23. ‘…well paid staff position to enforce the new ordinance..’? Say what? So people issuing new building permits are getting a raise for 2 years?

  24. The City of Berkeley signed up to the Climate Emergency protocol on 11 June. This protocol has been basically put together by international climate activist groups and their backers in conjunction with the United Nations.

    The Climate Emergency protocol requires Municipal Council who sign up to enact new laws and use existing regulations and any available “emergency laws” to take unilateral action to counter the climate emergency.

    The City of Berkeley announced a Climate Emergency mobilization in late June.

    The banning of gas connections to new buildings is straight out of the Climate Emergency document titled :”Understanding Climate emergency & Local government”, essentially a handbook for local councils.

  25. I predict a great future for diesel, for generators. Wood burning stove/heater would also make life more comfortable. Of course, pollution will increase.

  26. So the Southern California Gas Company are not supporting this idea – how strange. A company that sells gas not supporting a plan to cut its sales. Similar to the survey where 9 out of 10 turkeys that expressed a preference would like to see in the New Year.

  27. Only one city off natural gas: the present Netherlands governing coalition wants to force the whole country off natural gas, its main natural resource! Holland thrived on it once huge reserves. There is more but dumb Greens don’t want it.
    Home owners are forced to go for ground – heat pumps, whatever they cost and whatever the noise they make. Where the electricity for that has to come from on a cold windless winter night they neither realize nor care.
    CO2 is the enemy and the next few years are The End before “Armageddon”.
    No nuclear power “off course”. Follow Greta Thunberg…

  28. They are guaranteeing the degradation of gas infrastructure. The results will be explosive. Typical government: Cause the problem and then assert authority to fix it. To death.

  29. my tankless water heater (lpg not ng) runs fine on UPS battery for a bit until I fire generator up.

  30. You would not want your children to attend such an imbecile Establishment at Berkely. Since Natural gas is the cleanest and lowest CO2 emitting (if you want that sort of stuff!) and most useful fuel, why ban it?. They probably think that burning wooden logs would be better for the environment. We could all go back to the Stone Age or before and have a really Good Time!!

  31. “a claim that natural gas is useless during an electricity outage because modern gas appliances need electricity”

    Well, maybe then you shouldn’t buy ridiculously overdesigned “modern” gas appliances. For example, a real gas stove is basically a set of tubes and nozzles, requires zero point zero watts of electricity, and cooks everything just fine.

  32. I’m sure the geniuses who run Austin are glossy eyed over this and can’t wait to try to make it law here, too.

    Fortunately for me, I don’t live in the city limits. Everything Austin does that make housing more expensive just make my home more valuable.

  33. I’ve never been to this cesspool and never will unless forced by business or other extenuating circumstances. What a bunch of leftist-marxist-fools. Ick.

  34. Same community that ordered its police to stand down while scum beat and pepper-sprayed people hoping to hear Milo Yiannopoulos speak – God, the irony-proof left – on the subject of suppression of speech on campus.

    The Big One? Yes please, yesterday if possible.

  35. In the 1950s GE promoted the all electric house. When electric rates started to go sky high, duped homeowners realized how much it cost to heat a house by electricity and many sued GE for false advertising.

  36. If the city believes that the use of fossil fuels is bad then they should stop making use of all goods and serviced that make use of fossil fuels. They apparently are not doing that. The city needs to get rid of all the people who live and or work there and turn the city into a wilderness and nature preserve with zero human population.

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