Eliminating natural gas will impose significant costs on people and businesses

By Jerry Wallace, Special to CalMatters

Editors note: This commentary is in response to: “California needs to take these three actions needed to improve our energy system—and the environment,” Nov. 16, 2019.

Kathryn Phillips and Evan Gillespie of the Sierra Club wrote a commentary relative to what steps California should take to address the risk of wildfires.

First, having the Sierra Club opine on improving the wildfire situation in California is like asking PG&E to consult on safety and maintenance issues. 

We aren’t denying climate change, but our wildfires are severe due in large part to decades of neglecting our forests and urban interface because groups like the Sierra Club have opposed thinning the forests.

Furthermore, our droughts are more severe, contributing even more to the tinderbox conditions in the forests and wild lands, because these areas are overly dense. This, in turn, results in snow and rain never getting to the soil and then there is the fact that there are too many trees trying to live off the system.

Now the Sierra Club wants to deny California’s access to the cheapest and most efficient form of energy—natural gas—in the name of reducing greenhouse gases that they argue are making wild fires more severe.

Wild fires are more severe due to the aforementioned conditions in the forests and wild lands. In addition, the urban interface is much more populated.

The Tubbs fire in Santa Rosa was almost the exact fire that occurred 50 years prior. The only real difference was the increased  density of homes and the overgrown wild lands. 

California has foisted substantial costs on the public to fight greenhouse gasses from higher gasoline prices, pass through costs from cap and trade legislation, cleaning up industrial pollution, mandating new diesel truck engines and other commercial vehicles. 

Now we are to believe that none of that really mattered and the real culprit in natural gas.

How many businesses have, in the name of the fight against greenhouse gases, converted their fork lifts and other equipment to natural gas? How many public entities have converted their buses and airport vehicles to the same? How many homeowners have converted their wood burning fireplaces to natural gas in the name of reducing pollution?

Do you know a single chef that would prefer to cook on an electric as opposed to gas range? How many Californians do you think would rather have an electric BBQ, fire pit, pizza oven or outdoor kitchen?

By the way, electric heat pumps do not work and are totally inefficient in cold climates. Electric residential water heaters are as inefficient as electric heat, not to mention trying to heat residential or commercial swimming pools or spas with electricity as opposed to natural gas. 

In the end, eliminating natural gas is just another in a series of regressive costs that will be foisted upon the public in the name of climate change. Eliminating access to natural gas is a mistake, especially in state that cannot assure access to electricity. 

Jerry Wallace is president of California Pool & Spa Association, Sacramento, @theCPSA.org. He wrote this commentary for CalMatters.

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