Natural Gas Bans Are Hurting Vulnerable Communities. Here’s How.
Thu, July 29, 2021
Most communities across the country recognize the benefits of natural gas. It’s affordable, it’s clean, and thanks to the fracking revolution, it’s incredibly abundant. Unfortunately, more than 46 municipalities around the country are trying to block affordable energy access to their residents by banning natural gas stoves, ovens, and other appliances. In doing so, these cities are not only harming the budgets and bottom lines of residents and businesses, but possibly plunging already vulnerable households further into poverty.
Natural gas bans are a losing policy proposal – and it doesn’t take much digging to determine why.
Many of these bans – which like many silly policies have taken hold primarily in California – aim to restrict natural gas hookups in construction. Some come right out and say that natural gas is prohibited. But others are a bit sneakier: they use an updated construction standard, known as a reach code, that would exceed the state’s mandatory energy efficiency codes. The policies don’t say anything about prohibiting natural gas, but they’re worded such that the various thresholds and emissions limits would make it impossible for people to have natural gas stoves in their homes, for example.
Natural Gas Bans Have A Painful, Far-Reaching Impact on Surrounding Communities
The consequences of a natural gas ban spread beyond the city that passes a ban, because the gas grid extends far beyond the jurisdiction of any one city or county. When reviewing mass departures from the natural gas grid, a Gridworks report in California found that natural gas bans ultimately create an unfair energy burden:
“If the gas delivery system’s footprint remains static while throughput declines, the shrinking base of gas customers will ultimately face higher rates and unaffordable gas bills. These rate increases will particularly impact those who are already experiencing a disproportionate energy burden and unable to afford a transition to clean heating fuels.” (emphasis added)
Households across the country already struggle with energy bills, facing unfair energy burdens. This disproportionate burden placed on families – termed energy poverty - creates unimaginable choices, like whether to purchase necessary medications or to pay their energy bills. In certain areas, low-income households are paying up to 28 percent of their monthly income to cover their energy needs. Since electricity is often more expensive than natural gas, these gas bans place low-income households in an untenable position, raising energy costs for those who simply cannot afford them.
Of note, the advocates pushing for natural gas bans – be they environmental activists or policymakers – are often more affluent and able to pay inflated energy prices. But the people impacted by the bans are not so fortunate. Albert Wynn, a former Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives, wrote:
“The city officials supporting these municipal bans might believe they are acting in the best interests of their constituents, but the reality is the opposite. They are depriving those constituents of a more affordable and environmentally friendly energy resource.” (emphasis added)
Texas Is Protecting Energy Choice
Policymakers who embrace energy choice understand that the consequences of a natural gas ban could be dire – just a 10 percent increase in household energy costs would lead to upwards of 840,000 people across the United States being pushed into poverty.
That’s why Texas has joined other states, including Arizona, Ohio and Florida, to ensure consumer energy choice while also protecting an industry that is the lifeblood of our economy.
Earlier this year, lawmakers took a historic step to protect consumer choice and energy diversity in Texas by passing House Bill 17, which prohibits any regulatory authority, planning authority, or political subdivision from discriminating against any fuel source. Not only will this ensure that Texas remains a leader when it comes to energy innovation, but this move ultimately preserves the right of Texas families and businesses to choose how they meet their energy needs.