The San Francisco Bay Area’s energy grid may not be able to handle a transition to electric appliances, experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation, as the region’s regulator begins to phase out natural gas furnaces and water heaters.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District Board of Directors voted Wednesday to adopt rules that will slowly eliminate the sale and installation of natural gas furnaces in favor of “green” electric heaters. The regulators cited concerns that the continued use of natural gas will lead to increased levels of nitrogen oxides, acid rain, smog and an increased risk for asthma, but experts fear the electric power grid will not be able to handle the shift as more appliances are hooked up.
“During the day it’s fine, but during the cold snaps during the heat waves, we’re already hearing about shortages. You hear the governor saying please don’t plug in your electric vehicles between four and nine o’clock a couple of months ago because the grid wouldn’t be able to handle it. And that’s where we are now. So you’re already beginning to see signs of strain. And that’s only going to get worse if we continue down the same path.” Wayne Winegarden, a senior fellow and director of the Pacific Research Institute’s Center for Medical Economics and Innovation, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The Bay Area’s power grid is notorious for frequently failing, with a documented history of power outages.
In 2022, Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom, through the California Independent System Operator, asked all residents to reduce their electric vehicle intake between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. as temperatures reached the triple digits and the electric grid began to falter. A week after the request, California announced its plan to ban the sale of new gasoline cars, further adding strain to the grid.
“It’s not feasible,” Winegarden said. “The numbers just don’t add up very quickly, your demand for electricity will outpace the generation capacity. And that’s assuming that we still import 30% of our electricity from other states.”
The Bay Area has a history of blackouts and in March, widespread outages left 140,000 PG&E customers in Santa Clara County without power after a storm, according to ABC 7. Many days later, the outages continued, leaving Downtown Los Altos “virtually” shut down.
In June 2000, blackouts left 97,000 Bay Area customers without power, while former Gov. Gray Davis declared a state of emergency due to frequent outages in 2001; that March, blackouts left 1.5 million customers without power, with another 167,000 losing electricity two months later, according to ABC 7.
Massive power cut in parts of Bay Area . No electricity , no broad band and all home electric alliance for cooking so you go hungry . If your Tesla is not charged , you are out of luck !
— Anurag Shrivastava (@hrnext) March 15, 2023
“Climate policy is a double whammy for electric reliability,” Ben Lieberman, a senior fellow of environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told the DCNF. “On the one hand, we’re moving away from more reliable and base load sources like coal and natural gas. We’re not supporting nuclear either. We’re replacing them with wind and solar, which are intermittent. And at the same time, we’re increasing the demand for electricity by moving both transportation and home appliances away from other fuels like gasoline and diesel fuel for cars and natural gas for water heating and stoves.”
Fernando Gaytan, an attorney with environmental group Earthjustice, which advocated for the new rules, believes the ban will have positive implications for residents’ health, according to KQED.
“While we’re talking about two basic appliances that many of us take for granted in our homes, they have tremendous implications not only from an emissions perspective, but also from a public health perspective,” he said.
One Bay Area resident, Bill Olson, said the rules safeguard his descendants’ health, according to KQED.
“I’m here because I have an 18-month-old grandson who’s already using an inhaler,” Olson said. “These rules are future looking. I urge the board to help my grandson and all young people.”
The regulators cited increased levels of nitrogen oxides that potentially lead to acid rain, smog and an increased risk for asthma as a key reason for the transition, but Lieberman feels these studies are “problematic.”
“They’re tied very closely to climate advocacy groups. I think quite clearly these are just a hodgepodge of reasons to target fossil fuels but the actual rationale is climate change,” he said.
“It’s just all too convenient. All of a sudden, they found this. Meanwhile, you know, you would think this was something happening all along, you would have seen this epidemic building for years,” Winegarden concurred.
The Biden administration has hinted at a nationwide ban on gas stove appliances. A growing number of states and cities are also considering the ban, with Minnesota lawmakers introducing legislation in February to authorize state regulators to amend the energy code.
The city of Eugene, Oregon, announced a ban in February, and New York is currently weighing a statewide ban.
American Energy Alliance President Thomas Pyle believes the California government is passing off these mandates to unelected officials to avoid any blowback that may happen, he told the DCNF.
“They’ve resorted to simply banning stuff by taking away our choices and forcing us to conform to their agenda, which will basically attempt to achieve their goal by force, as opposed to trying to convince us that we should act the way that they want us to act in the courts.” he said. “They pawn it off to unelected bureaucrats who make the decisions for them, so they don’t have to face the voters when there’s a backlash.”
“For the wealthy and the elites, it’s inconsequential, but for the rest of us it is disruptive, expensive, and unnecessary,” he continued.
Newsom and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District Board of Directors did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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