August 2019 Vol. 74 No. 8

Editor's Log

An Apparent Absence Of Common Sense

It’s not unusual for California to be on the fringe of common sense. Some of the state’s action – or inactions – have left the rest of the country scratching their collective heads. But increasingly, the city of Berkeley, Calif., has led the state in zaniness.

Berkeley gained its whacky reputation back in the psychedelic 60s and 70s. The last few years have seen a resurgence of that nonsensical behavior. The most recent example is an “all-electric” move by the city. On Jan. 1, 2020, Berkeley will become the first city in the U.S. to ban the use of natural gas in new buildings.

The ordinance was the brainchild of Councilwoman Kate Harrison. It phases out the use of natural gas by requiring all new single-family homes, town homes and small apartment buildings to have electric infrastructure. Further, Berkeley will include commercial buildings and larger residential structures as California continues to develop regulations for those structures. Developers will be unable to apply for land permits unless their buildings are free of all gas infrastructure.

Berkeley went so far as to also budget $273,000 per year for a two-year staff position within the city that will be responsible for implementing the ban. I’m sure there will be no shortage of resumes for that kind of pay. All you have to do is go around town telling owners to turn off the gas.

Supposedly, 50 other cities in California are considering similar action, including San Francisco (no surprise there). The mayor of Berkeley, in praising the new local legislation, also stated that the city is committed to the “Paris Agreement,” the very same climate international treaty that President Trump announced in 2017 that the U.S. would begin the process of withdrawing from. The treaty, the president explained, places heavy burdens on the U.S. economy while giving other countries (and much worse offenders) essentially a pass (China and Russia come to mind). I guess Berkeley considers itself somewhat of an independent country within California that can follow international agreements at its convenience. Next, they’ll probably start disarming their nuclear arsenal.

But Berkeley has the answer to concerns of gas-free buildings. The city is now hustling the virtues of all-electric, induction cooking and heat pumps. This from the city that just recently brought us “maintenance holes” in lieu of manholes.

With building construction suddenly becoming much more expensive, it is predicted that several housing construction projects will be scuttled. All this comes at a time when Berkeley is experiencing a severe housing crunch. The city streets are also being flooded by the homeless. Ironically, last fall, Councilwoman Harrison was criticized by a local news outlet for pushing policies that made housing less affordable.

Berkeley’s actions are part of a state-wide push to become 100 percent zero-carbon energy by 2045. Energy used in buildings accounts for about 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in California. Anything with a carbon footprint is considered the primary cause of climate change so naturally, even clean gas has to go. Of course, the worst cause of pollution in California is the number of cars and trucks on the road. If Berkeley and the state really want to make an immediate impact, simply require trucks to burn LNG or CNG. A study came out several years ago that showed just that one action would virtually eliminate air pollution within a few months. In fact, if all trucks across America would convert from diesel to natural gas, air pollution as we know it today would disappear in a heartbeat.

Unfortunately for zealots, a better solution is not the right answer in their minds. Carbon energy must go. Getting rid of natural gas is the apparent answer to all of Berkeley’s woes and will help it achieve its new role as the nation’s climate control leader. Natural gas that is environmentally friendly, economical and available right now – not in 10, 20 or 30 years – is now off the table as a solution.

The ultimate irony is that the two major power plants supplying electric power to Berkeley are fueled by (God forbid!) natural gas. The energy required for factories to make the electric induction ovens and heat pumps that are going to save Berkeley comes from – you guessed it – gas-powered factories. As residents suffer through increased utility bills, the power companies will be laughing all the way to the bank. It’s no wonder that the rate of people leaving California is second only to New York – they can’t afford their leaders’ misdirected dreams.

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