California’s push to become carbon neutral by 2045 may hurt amateur chefs where it hurts most—in their own kitchens.
Berkeley, Ca. last month became the first city in the country to ban the use of natural gas in new low-rise residential buildings. The edict, which takes effect on Jan. 1, will compel homeowners to use an electric range rather than the big Viking or Wolf they’ve been eyeing.
Restaurant owners may be able to win an exemption, but city officials argue that electric appliances have a lower carbon footprint than gas-burning stoves, water heaters, and furnaces, NPR reported.
Space heating and cooking account for almost a third of the natural gas burned in the U.S. Getting to carbon neutrality will require a colossal effort to wean consumers off gas appliances. They may not need much coaxing to swap a gas-fired water heater for an electric model, but giving up on their commercial range may be another story.
This isn’t Berkeley’s first bit of ground-breaking local legislation. The city in 1977 was the first in the country to ban smoking in restaurants and bars, and in January it forced restaurants to begin using compostable packaging for takeout orders, the San Francisco Chronicle said.
But critics think the latest move is going too far. “People love their gas stoves,” Bob Raymer, technical director with the California Building Industry Association, told NPR. “We don’t want to force something onto the consumer that makes the consumer feel uncomfortable, or that they just don’t like. After all, it’s their home.”
Kate Harrison, the councilwoman who introduced the ordinance, said it’s an important step forward. “It’s an enormous issue,” she told the Chronicle, “We need to really tackle this. When we think about pollution and climate-change issues, we tend to think about factories and cars, but all buildings are producing greenhouse gas.”
People who live in all electric houses also will enjoy better air quality, and fewer gas lines also means a lower risk of fires after an earthquake, according to proponents such as Pierre Delforge of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Although the ban on new natural gas hookups initially affects only low-rise residential buildings, eventually it also will cover commercial buildings and larger multifamily structures.
There are now 50 cities across California, including San Francisco, that are considering similar legislation, according to California Energy Commission Chairman David Hochshild, who spoke at the City Council meeting where the new law was passed.
While Raymer said his group does not support a ban on natural gas in new buildings, he said some builders are already offering all-electric homes because they can save as much as $5,000 by not running gas lines.
In order to meet its carbon neutrality goals, California also will have to figure out how to get natural gas out of existing homes, and that’s going to be a tougher problem.
-Scott Gibson is a contributing writer at Green Building Advisor and Fine Homebuilding magazine.