The California, City Council is getting headlines for its determination last week to ban supposedly gendered language from its city code. “Manhole” and “manpower” are actually out in favor of “maintenance hole” and “human effort.” Somewhere George Orwell is crying, but the city’s progressive lords were even more harmful when they also moved to ban natural gasoline from nearly all new buildings.
The ordinance is due for a second reading this week and already has unanimous council support. Beginning Jan. 1, with few exceptions the city will deny developers permission to build a home, townhouse or small condominium building with natural gas hook-ups for cooking, heating or hot water. The ordinance’s stated goal is “fossil-free new buildings,” and Berkeley plans to expand the ban to more significant condominium buildings and commercial structures.
Berkeley claims in its ordinance that “all-electric heating technologies are cost-competitive substitutes to their natural gas counterparts.” If that’s true in California, it is because the state’s climate regulations have increased the cost of fossil fuels. Electric heaters are generally less expensive than gas furnaces; however, in most places, fuel is cheaper than electricity. Residential natural gas prices have risen 16% in California over the last five years while falling 8% on average nationwide.
Electricity prices statewide have also increased 20% since 2014 due in part to increased reliance on photovoltaic and wind and are set to rise even more significant as the state weans itself from fossil fuels. Berkeley doesn’t wish to wait until state regulators ban new pure gas hook-ups, as environmentalists demand quicker progress towards carbon neutrality.
This being Berkeley, the natural-gas ban also contains a social-justice rationale. “Asthma and its relationship to natural gas current profound questions about equity,” the ordinance says, adding that “the very best asthma rates in Berkeley and Oakland tracked areas that were redlined according to racist housing insurance policies.”
So the city will make poor, and minority families pay more for energy now because bankers once didn’t lend to the poor. Depend on this as another case of the madness of progressive crowds.