For decades, natural gas was considered among the preferred energy sources for buildings and embraced as a bridge from dirtier fossil fuels to a green energy future. Now it seems that the transition period is coming to a close after the city of Berkeley passed a landmark ordinance that will ban natural, fossil gas hook-ups in all new buildings.
The reasons behind the decision are multifold. Energy use in buildings accounts for about 25% of greenhouse gas emissions in California. If the state is to meet its goal of 100% zero-carbon energy by 2045, then gas will have to go. Additionally, roughly 3 percent of all-natural gas extracted by the fossil fuels industry is leaked into the atmosphere. Berkeley was also motivated to reduce health and safety risks endemic to gas appliances, which release significant emissions and pollutants indoors.
Although Berkeley may be pushing the vanguard, the city is hardly alone. Governments across the US and Europe are looking at strategies to phase out natural gas. In California alone, dozens of cities and counties are considering eliminating fossil fuel hook-ups to power stoves and heat homes in new buildings, while California state agencies pencil out new rules and regulations that would slash emissions.
With Berkeley’s ordinance going into effect on January 1, it seems natural gas has become the new climate crisis frontline.