Point of View: A sensible effort to thwart local natural gas bans
Oklahomans should strongly applaud legislation approved by the state House and pending in the Senate that would prohibit local governments from barring the use of natural gas in homes and businesses.
The bill would provide Oklahoma families and business owners, as well as cities and counties, consistent and transparent rules for the future use of much-needed, lower-cost and reliable natural gas.
Berkeley, California, has banned new natural gas connections. A few other radically minded cities in California and elsewhere are considering similar connections for homes and business, raising concerns for energy users everywhere.
While no such restrictions on natural gas have been proposed in Oklahoma, it’s commendable that the House overwhelmingly passed a bill by Rep. Terry O’Donnell, R-Catoosa, chairman of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and co-authors Reps. Ken Luttrell of Ponca City and Ryan Martinez of Edmond against such ill-conceived prohibitions to give all Oklahomans a certain piece of mind.
These actions to restrict natural gas are ill-advised and, if adopted, would curtail the world-leading environmental progress we’re making while creating an unnecessary cost burden for consumers that also risks our energy security.
The proposed bans run counter to new research from the Department of Energy that shows we must increase our generation from natural gas and other sources to complement the important and growing addition of wind and solar power to our grid. Failure to do so puts our access to affordable, reliable energy at risk, the DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory said in a report released in February.
If municipalities are allowed to embrace this overzealous fad, we will generate a crazy patchwork of confusing energy policies — and higher energy prices. A recent Consumer Energy Alliance report found that Oklahoma families and businesses saved about $8 billion from natural gas in their energy bills between 2006 and 2016.
Our best solutions come when our governments and private sector work together to offer environmentally sound solutions to our meeting our energy and environmental needs.
At a time of record oil and gas production, the United States leads the world in environmental standards and emissions reductions on an absolute basis. That’s largely due to the use of natural gas, advances in technology and ongoing progress in renewable energy.
In 2019, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions fell a whopping 2.1%, according to the Energy Information Administration. The decline largely reflected the increased use of natural gas, wind and solar by utilities in Oklahoma and across the country. And it’s a long-term trend: our overall greenhouse gas emissions fell by 12% from 2005-2017.
Not only that, by 2025, we’ll be two-thirds of the way toward meeting our Paris agreement targets of a 25-28 percent reduction in emissions from 2005 levels, according to Bloomberg Philanthropies.
Eliminating natural gas from our energy mix is eliminating immediate, tangible emissions reductions. Worse, they interfere with a long, successful American tradition of government, businesses and citizens working together to solve our biggest challenges, as we are seeing right now with the unprecedented mobilization to stop the coronavirus outbreak.
Please urge the Oklahoma Senate to approve the prohibition on local bans of natural gas hookups and Gov. Stitt to sign it.
Holt is a founder and president of Consumer Energy Alliance, which represents energy consumers including families, farmers, manufacturers, truckers and small businesses (www.consumerenergyalliance.org)