California Screamin'


Last week, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District approved new regulations that will ban the use of residential and commercial natural gas-fired water heaters and furnaces in 2027. The regulation, which only applies to new appliances, prohibits residents in the Bay Area from buying or installing gas water heaters starting in 2027. The prohibition on residential furnaces starts in 2029 and the ban on commercial water heaters begins in 2031.

In a March 15 press release, Philip Fine, the executive officer of the agency said the new “groundbreaking regulation will phase out the most polluting appliances in homes and businesses to protect Bay Area residents from the harmful air pollution they cause.” He also said the ban was justified because those appliances “significantly impact our air quality, resulting in dozens of early deaths and a wide range of health impacts, particularly in communities of color.”

The move is the latest example of how California policymakers are adopting a phalanx of regulations that are forcing residents to use electricity instead of natural gas. According to the Sierra Club, which has been leading the effort to ban the direct use of natural gas, 74 California communities have passed forced electrification measures since 2019. And these regulations are being approved at the same time electricity costs in the state are soaring. Two weeks before the BAAQMD passed its ban on natural gas appliances, the Energy Information Administration released data showing that California’s residential electricity prices jumped by 14.7% in 2022.

That’s only the latest increase. Since 2008, when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an executive order requiring the state’s utilities to obtain a third of the electricity they sell from renewables by 2020, all-sector electricity prices in California have soared by 80%. California residents are now paying the highest electricity prices in the U.S. outside of Hawaii. But here’s the really sobering part: Despite these soaring costs, the state’s headlong rush for renewables has not resulted in a big drop in the state’s electric sector emissions. More on that in a moment.

Before going further, it’s important to understand why these soaring energy costs matter. California has the highest poverty rate in America. Indeed, the state’s poverty situation is nothing short of shocking. A 2021 report by the Public Policy Institute of California found that “More than a third of Californians are living in or near poverty. Nearly one in six (16.4 percent) Californians were not in poverty but lived fairly close to the poverty line … All told, more than a third (34.0 percent) of state residents were poor or near-poor in 2019.”

Read the rest of this piece at Robert Bryce Substack.

Robert Bryce is a Texas-based author, journalist, film producer, and podcaster. His articles have appeared in a myriad of publications including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Forbes, Time, Austin Chronicle, and Sydney Morning Herald.

Chart: courtesy Robert Bryce Substack