Natural gas has become a substitute for countries who want to say no to coal but many cities in the United States have begun to reject natural gas. New York City has become the largest city that has issued a natural gas ban. From December 2023, new buildings will be prohibited from using natural gas for heating and gas connections for household appliances. Initially, this ban will apply to buildings with less than seven floors with the ban coming into effect for buildings with more than seven floors in 2027. The passage of the bill represents a milestone in the electrification movement, helping New York City transition to truly clean energy.
Although the energy industry tries to tout natural gas as a clean fuel, research has found that this is not the case. Cornell University researchers have stated, although burning natural gas does release less emissions than coal, the main component of natural gas is methane which is a potent greenhouse gas. Hydraulic fracking, drilling, and gas leaks can cause large amounts of methane emissions.
Most of the electricity in New York State comes from natural gas with five of its top ten power plants using natural gas to generate electricity, making it the sixth largest natural gas consumer among the 50 states in 2019. Nuclear power and hydropower are also important, accounting for 29% and 11% of power generation in 2020, respectively. The use of solar and wind energy has increased dramatically, partly due to national incentives and policies, including solar tax credits. In 2020, 2.5% of the state’s electricity came from solar energy.
New York City buildings are a major source of carbon emissions, accounting for approximately 70% of greenhouse gases. After the new climate law comes into effect, future building radiators, boilers, and stoves in the city will be unable to use natural gas and oil, only electricity. According to think tank RMI research, compared with fossil fuel-burning buildings, all-electric buildings can significantly reduce emissions and New York City's emissions performance will only increase as the grid is rapidly decarbonized. Banning natural gas is expected to help New York City reduce approximately 2.1 million tons of carbon emissions by 2040, equivalent to the annual emissions of 450,000 vehicles, and save consumers hundreds of millions of dollars in new gas connection costs.
New York, the largest city in the United States, is a pioneer in this type of legislation and it may push New York State to require 70% of its electricity come from renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydropower by 2030 to achieve net zero emissions from the power sector by 2040. The Auditor General of New York City stated, “We do not have time to continue burning fossil fuels. We have a lot of work to do to ensure that we convert the grid to solar, wind, and renewable energy so that the energy used to power our buildings is also clean and renewable."
The Mayor of New York said that if the largest city in the United States can take critical steps to ban the use of natural gas, any city can do it. Fifty-six cities and townships in the United States have banned the use of natural gas in new homes and offices, including San Francisco, Berkeley, San Jose, Cambridge, and Seattle.
However, banning natural gas will inevitably increase the cost of electricity. The New York State Association of REALTORS stated, “Although we recognize that efficient electrification of buildings is an important part of achieving emissions goals, these policies must be implemented in a way that ensures New Yorkers have reliable, affordable, and carbon-free electricity for heating and cooling of homes and businesses.”
(Image：Flickr/Andreas Wulff CC BY 2.0)