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By Tim Hunt

Banning natural gas heating in Dublin?

Uploaded: Feb 20, 2020

California’s extreme climate goals are continuing to take a toll.

Last year, the state energy commission approved plans from several cities and Marin County to ban natural gas pipes in new construction. For cities such as Berkeley and Menlo Park, those over-the-top measures weren’t surprising. The Berkeley action is being challenged in court.

What was surprising is to learn that on Dec. 17, 2019 the Dublin City Council considered a similar action.

The city staff is updating the community’s Climate Action Plan that was originally enacted in 2010. It was required by AB 32 passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Arnold Swarzenegger in 2006. That set the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions (think the carbon dioxide that we expel every time we exhale and that trees and other plants need) to 1990 levels by 2020. The report to the council indicated the city was on target to meet those goals.

What requires more draconian steps were SB 32 that requires emissions be reduced to 40 percent below the 1990 levels by 2030 and SB 100 that requires all electric generation be 100 carbon-free by 2045. The Legislature and former Gov. Jerry Brown doubled down on their opinions and established even more challenging goals. Brown, throughout his second two-term governorship, cast himself as an international leader pushing for nations to deal with climate change.

If Dublin’s understanding of the law is correct and there’s no reason to think anything else, then it’s policy will be the forerunner to similar policies across the state. Dublin staff will return a revised version to the council this winter. Given that transportation is the biggest source of greenhouse gases because of petroleum-based fuels, the sale of electric cars and trucks is going to have to soar.

Does anyone else see the contradiction between jousting with the theory of man-caused climate change and relying on an electrical grid run by a bankrupt utility (PG&E) that has neglected maintenance and upgrading equipment for decades. PG&E embraced the climate change strategy, as did the Public Utilities Commission that regulates the company. That’s why we pay the highest electrical rates in the country as well as about $1 more for gallon for gasoline than the national average.

PG&E’s CEO has said publicly it could take up to 10 years to update and upgrade its grid so we don’t see more planned electric shutoffs during dry fall weather.

PG&E leaders have embraced the renewable alternatives and the dropping price of solar panels has some real upside for residential use. The irony of the natural gas bans is that most of the power plants developed for peak demand times such as hot summer days are powered by natural gas. It’s clean burning and efficient, whether used for heating homes or offices or cooking. To its credit, Dublin’s proposal exempts restaurants and hospitals.

And then there’s the conflict between technology such as the giant second-generation windmills in the Altamont Pass and elsewhere and the death toll they take on raptors forging for prey in those grass-covered hills. It’s the same in one commercial solar array in the desert where habitat for native animals such as tortoises has been destroyed. We see conflicts between environmentalists backing renewable energy and others battling for raptors and other wildlife.

Personally, I have my doubts about man-caused climate change. It’s clear the climate has changed over the centuries—the geologic record shows two Ice Ages that came and went. Many climate scientists argue that man’s impact is causing the climate to change, while others take the opposite view. The modeling that predicts temperature increases and rising oceans comes down to what assumptions that are plugged in. Change the assumptions and you change the results.

That’s certainly not the approach that this blue state with one party has taken (although Gov. Arnold claimed he was a Republican). For the wealthier folks living in the 16 coastal counties that dominate California politics, the majority seem happy to pay the price. For the rest of the state, particularly the great Central Valley, the costs sting families, particularly those living in poverty. The San Joaquin Valley has the highest poverty rate in the country, while Fresno is the second most impoverished city in the state.

Gov. Gavin Newsom had made addressing the two California’s a priority of his administration, but when will it show any fruit?