New York City has approved a bill banning gas heat and stoves in new buildings, leading the mayor’s director of climate and sustainability to riff on an old saying about the Big Apple: “If we can do it here, we can do it anywhere.”
Standing in opposition to the ban were National Grid, the utility that supplies the city’s gas [though surely not all its hot air—Ed.], and real estate developers who played up fears of freezing in the dark cold of New York winters should the power grid fail, writes the New York Times.
The developers did hold some sway, negotiating a delay of three years on buildings over seven storeys. For new builds under seven storeys, the ban will take effect in December 2023.
But still, the pro-electricity campaign won big, thanks to a year-long grassroot campaign aided by growing citizen awareness of the climate crisis, driven events like the killer floods that the tail end of Hurricane Ida brought to the city in September.
Also persuasive were presentations by the non-profit Urban Green Council which argued that, contrary to developers’ scare tactics, the grid is now strong enough to support the shift to mass electrification. The council said the grid can deliver in summer as well as winter, even with New Yorkers turning up their air conditioners to survive the summer swelter.
Indeed, proponents of the ban argued that the mandated shift to electric heating could be a boon for the grid in summer. Many builders are expected to turn to heat pumps, which are as efficient at cooling the air in summer as they are heating it in winter.
And then there are the air quality benefits of the ban. Citing a recent study by the Snowmass, Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Institute, the Times writes that the ban will “prevent 2.1 million tons of carbon emissions by 2040—equivalent to what 450,000 cars spew in a year.”
The measure’s lead sponsor, Brooklyn councilwoman Alicka Ampry-Samuels (D), spoke passionately in public about how the switch from fossil fuels to electricity “would reduce air pollution and climate dangers that disproportionately kill and harm vulnerable groups like Black and poor people.”
Bans like the one just passed by NYC “are the latest challenge for an industry already besieged by campaigns against fracking, pipelines, and gas-fueled power plants,” the Times adds. “Permits for two such plants were recently denied by state regulators.”
But the U.S. industry is fighting hard to lobby policy-makers to outlaw such bans. And they have made inroads: to date, 20 state legislatures, all under Republican control, have made it illegal to ban natural gas.