Oakland and San Jose ban natural gas in new buildings
Following the lead of several other Bay Area cities, Oakland and San Jose this week adopted bans on natural gas in the construction of most new buildings. Last July, Berkeley became the first city in the nation to ban natural gas. Other Bay Area cities, including San Francisco and Richmond, followed suit in subsequent months.
The combustion of fossil fuels in buildings for space heating and cooking has made buildings one of the leading sources of greenhouse gas emissions in most Bay Area cities, and the largest source of emissions that cities have regulatory control over (with transportation typically the largest source of emissions overall). Reducing natural gas combustion through buildings has emerged as a critical tool for the region to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
Proponents for prohibiting natural gas infrastructure cite not only the urgent need for cities to reduce emissions, but also the emerging science showing the harmful impacts that indoor air pollution from natural gas-fired appliances can have on human health. Studies have shown that children growing up in homes that use natural gas for cooking are 42 percent more likely to have asthma. Furthermore, prohibiting the construction of new natural gas will lead to the construction of electric-ready buildings and avoid building out costly natural gas infrastructure, which could ultimately become a "stranded asset" as natural gas becomes a more costly and highly-regulated energy source in buildings.
San Jose's ban on natural gas could have a major impact on greenhouse gas emissions in the years to come. "The city — home to more than 1 million residents — revealed in its latest inventory that building emissions account for a third of the city's emissions of planet-warming gases," according to the KQED article.