The issue of cooking gas and heating in the United States is rapidly shifting from an environmental and economic battle to a political battle between Republican and Democratic parties, as well as to a business battle between the country’s electricity producers and natural gas network companies backed by the large energy lobby in the United States.
So far, the battle is raging between cities and states, and is divided over strategic fuel transformation measures according to their political color. While cities run by Republican governors oppose President Joe Biden’s plan to ban or at least reduce the use of fossil fuels for heating in new homes, governors in Democratic-controlled states support new environmental measures as necessary for the future of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The fierce opposition in many US states to the transition from natural gas to electricity measures gives an indication of the difficulties facing Biden’s environmental policies, which he intends to implement within the strategy to modernize infrastructure in the United States and the future of investment in clean energy.
According to the Wall Street Journal, some American cities have begun implementing measures to reduce the use of fossil fuels for heating and cooking in new homes, but even these democratic states face opposition from the restaurant sector and difficulties in how to deal with the costs of switching to electricity and the level of support provided by municipalities. For business and home owners.
Among the major cities that have begun implementing new environmental measures are New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Denver, which are run by Democratic governors. In contrast, more than 13 major states oppose transition measures along with energy-producing states, including Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, Kansas, Tennessee and Louisiana. According to the “Wall Street Journal” report, these states consider environmental measures illegal and arbitrary, as well as economically costly to build and for residents.
Residents of the United States find gas a cheap tool, and therefore it is used extensively in homes. According to US Energy Information Administration data, the United States consumed about 30.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in 2020, and that nearly half of American homes use natural gas for heating, cooking, heating water and operating household appliances such as washing machines and detergents.
Data from the US Energy Information Administration indicate that 47% of US homes use natural gas for fuel, compared to 36% that use electricity.
American families find that natural gas is cheaper than electricity, and at the same time they fear the cost of changing heating and cooking systems from gas to electricity. Perhaps this factor will be one of the major obstacles to Biden’s strategy to switch from fossil fuels in homes and commercial buildings to electricity. And there are questions about who will pay the cost of the transformation, is the US government or the owners of housing and buildings. The Washington Post, in a report, notes that some municipalities have offered compensation plans, but they will not be rewarding and may not be convincing for many residents.
For its part, the US Environmental Protection Agency believes that residential and commercial buildings contribute 31% of the gases polluting the environment, and that reducing this percentage has become necessary in the coming decades. Therefore, it recommends the use of electricity in new buildings.
In this regard, the director of the Carbon Reduction Organization in California, Panama, Bartholomew, says that “the organization is working to reduce polluting gases in residential and commercial buildings by 40% by 2030.” She added that the organization adopts new environmental measures in the design of new buildings, and its legislation will become binding in the coming years.
Natural gas companies and city gas network operators are the biggest opponents, supported by restaurant companies, homeowners and some commercial buildings even in Democratic states.
Shale gas companies, which depend on domestic gas consumption more than exports, find themselves in an embarrassing situation if the new measures are implemented, as they will lose a large share of the US gas market in favor of rival electricity companies.
Experts note that these companies may not be able to compensate for the gas share they will lose in the local market, as they face difficulty in foreign competition, especially in major markets such as Europe and Asia, where the costs of extracting and exporting US shale gas are higher compared to Russian gas. It also faces competition from Australian and Qatari gas in the Asian market, whose extraction cost is lower compared to the American one.
It is noteworthy that the battle to reduce the use of natural gas in homes began in Berkeley, California, in 2019, but quickly spread in the wake of the victory of the Democratic Party and the rise of President Joe Biden to power. Experts do not rule out that the plan to switch from gas to electricity will become one of the main obstacles for Democratic Party representatives in many US states during the congressional elections next year.