NYC City Council Bans Gas in New Buildings, In Favor of Electricity, which Requires Gas or Coal: Emitting Even More Carbon

NYC City Council Bans Gas in New Buildings, In Favor of Electricity, which Requires Gas or Coal: Emitting Even More Carbon

By Yehudit Garmaise

The New York City Council, on Wednesday, in an effort to “move away from using fossil fuels” passed a measure to ban gas hookups for stove and water boilers in new buildings in favor of electricity, which to be powered require...gas or coal, which is another fossil fuel that emits even more carbon dioxide than gas.

The measure of the City Council, which does not appear to be thinking beyond the outlets in wall, will take effect starting in 2023 for buildings that are less than seven stories and in 2027 for taller buildings.

The City Council’s new law requires most residentially construction projects to forgo natural gas in favor of electricity, which they called “more environmentally-friendly” sources for heating, hot water, and cooking, without mentioning that electricity uses coal and sometimes gas.

The ban passed easily: 40 to 7 out of 51, while climate activists and elected officials held a rally for a “Gas Free New York."

No one, however, has mentioned the crucial point that the electricity must be generated from another source of fuel: like gas or coal, which is also a fossil fuel, requires more energy to transport power in a multi-step process, and a emits even more toxic carbons than gas does.

"Natural gas stoves are eco-friendly and energy efficient because the fuel is directly used for cooking, [unlike] electric cooktops, [for which ] electricity must be generated from another source of fuel, like coal or gas," wrote Marie Willsey in “10 Tips for Eco-friendly Cooking."

City Council admits that under the new measure, new buildings will use electricity that is partly generated from fossil fuels, however, the Council claims its bill will “cut millions of tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere over time.” 

The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), which is a think tank that aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions at least by 50% by 2030, claims that New York City’s ban on gas would save by 2040, 2.1 million tons of carbon emissions, which is equivalent to the annual emissions of 450,000 cars.

“The [NYC City Council’s] bill’s passage would represent a landmark moment for the electrification movement: the first all-electric new construction policy in America’s largest city, and a cold-climate city at that.”

The RMI also claims that all-electric buildings, which they say will be cheaper to build, “reduce carbon emissions substantially compared to those that burn fossil fuels,” without mentioning that electricity also burns fossil fuels.

Probably because cooks prefer gas stoves, whose flames are more easily controlled, responsive, easier-to-use, and quicker to heat up and cool down, restaurants and other commercial kitchens, the City Council’s new ban on gas does not apply to restaurants or other commerical kitchens.

Hospitals, laundromats, and residents who already have natural gas in their homes will not be affected by the new law. 

“This is how to fight back against climate change on the local level and guarantee a green city for generations to come,” said Mayor de Blasio, who also claimed that the new bill will “protect public health, create jobs, and end the era of fossil fuels,” without mentioning that electricity also relies on fossil fuels.

For years, however, many have argued that natural gas stoves are eco-friendly and energy-efficient because the fuel is directly used for cooking, instead of to power another source, as is the case with electricity.

“[Cooking gas is being consumed only when it is turned on, lowering energy usage -- and costs -- by about one-third," wrote Willsey. “Turns out, gas cooktops are also a green choice.”  

Water heaters, which also will no longer be allowed to use gas hookups, similarly will be forced to use electricity, which for its power relies on coal.

Other energy sources, such as solar or wind panels, would not burn any carbon emissions at all, but such truly clean measures were not included in the new bill.

Among the seven council members who voted against the ban on gas, was Councilman Kalman Yeger, who pointed out that New York City’s current electrical grid cannot even handle the additional burdens a ban on natural gas hook-ups would cause. 

"The electrical grid is not presently projected to be able to handle the additional need caused if new natural gas hookups are banned,” said Councilman Yeger, who predicted that the gas ban will be overturned in court. “Until the grid can handle the additional capacity required for New Yorkers to heat their homes and cook food, it is highly irresponsible to enact a ban, unless the Council simply wants to ban growth in New York City.”  

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