Natural gas is a clean and affordable fuel we use to cook, heat water and provide warmth in the winter. Millions of Americans appreciate its benefits, even if they don’t think about them.
Just because you don’t think about natural gas doesn’t mean radical environmentalists – including New Mexico’s senior U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich – don’t. Heinrich recently wrote in the New York Times that “working to electrify our vehicles, homes and businesses is a critical part of achieving economywide net-zero emissions.”
He’s pushing legislation in Congress and for funding in the infrastructure bill for electrification – which is really another way of saying phasing out or banning your natural gas stove, oven and furnace and requiring you to use electric heat and stoves.
Sacramento recently became the 46th U.S. city to begin “phasing out natural gas in new buildings.” It’s not just happening in California. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Seattle, Denver and New York have all either enacted or proposed measures to ban or discourage the use of the fossil fuel in new homes and buildings.”
Just a decade or so ago the Sierra Club and other environmental groups supported natural gas as a cleaner-burning alternative to coal. Now, Heinrich, counter to the economic interests of the state he represents – New Mexico is a major natural gas producer – and against the expressed preferences of consumers who use such appliances, is pushing to eliminate natural gas.
The push for a natural gas ban is premised on the idea we should replace fossil fuels with wind and solar technologies that put us on a path to “net-zero emissions.” Of course, we’re not just talking about replacing all existing electricity generation; just 10% of current electricity production comes from wind, solar and geothermal combined. Experts say electrification would increase U.S. electricity consumption by 40%.
To say the least, Sen. Heinrich’s electrification scheme will require astonishing amounts of new electricity generation at great economic cost, not to mention batteries to ensure reliability and new transmission lines to distribute it. We’ll be the ones paying for all that new redundant generation.
It’s an even bigger problem considering the reliability and demand issues already facing the Western United States this summer and utilities’ – including PNM’s – difficulty bringing new renewables online.
And then there are consumer preferences for natural gas, which for some reason get casually ignored. You will have to search far and wide to find an electric stove in your favorite restaurant. That’s because natural gas is superior to electricity for cooking on both food quality and price. Banning natural gas in restaurants means you would be waiting longer for your favorite meal while also paying more.
Any serious push for electrification of our economy will require massive government subsidies, thus Heinrich’s push in the current “infrastructure” bill. With electricity reliability already an issue, the reliability of natural gas can be a literal lifesaver.
We all want clean, affordable and reliable energy. Natural gas provides all three. And while the United States has been steadily reducing CO2 emissions for over a decade, China now emits more CO2 than the rest of the developed world combined – that includes the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia. Heinrich’s forced shift to all-electric in the United States will be costly and won’t achieve the environmental gains he seeks.
The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, nonpartisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility.