Natural gas tug-of-war

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sent Europe knocking on the United States’ door looking for natural gas. Meanwhile, some communities in the United States are trying to ban it.

Montgomery County, Md., made moves this week to become the first county on the East Coast to ban natural gas as a heat source in new buildings, writes POLITICO’s E&E News reporter David Iaconangelo.

The plan, expected to go into effect by the end of 2026, will require most new buildings in the county to use electricity or other non-combustion technologies for space and water heat, as well as for cooking.

About 40 percent of the country’s planet-warming pollution comes from buildings, making the sector a prime target for emission cuts.

Still, only two U.S. states — Washington and California — have approved statewide restrictions on fossil-fueled heat. Those are set to take effect by the end of the decade. The District of Columbia enacted a similar policy last summer.

New York is also considering a gas ban, and Massachusetts has created a pilot program that allows up to 10 cities to enact a ban.

Countering the trend is a strong push from the natural gas industry to outlaw such bans. Twenty states prevent cities from prohibiting gas use in buildings. Ten more prohibit utilities from encouraging customers to switch to electric.

Nationally, natural gas and electricity are neck and neck as sources of heat in buildings. President Joe Biden’s $369 billion climate law, which includes programs to encourage electrification, could tip the scale.

Halfway across the world, on the other hand, Europe’s sudden need for an alternative to Russian natural gas is causing the continent to turn to fuel from the United States, one of the world’s largest exporters of liquefied natural gas.

But it’s also prompting European Union leaders to complain about the price they’re paying for American gas — though, of course, that’s not something the Biden administration controls.

The result is tension about gas, both here and abroad.



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