Opinion

Eliminating natural gas for electricity carries risks

A pipeline carrying natural gas near San Jose. (Photo: Sundry Photography, via Shutterstock)

Climate change is one of the most important challenges of our time.  And in California, we have felt the brunt of both the economic impacts of climate-driven disasters, as well as aggressive technology innovation that is trying to address it.

Communities of color, in all parts of the state, feel this pressure even more because of the challenges of poverty, stagnant household income growth and the on-going housing crisis.  In fact, a report this summer from the California Latino Economic Institute, a nonprofit that includes a broad cross section of business, education and government leaders, chronicled the struggle of Latinos to keep up.

Now, California is moving forward with even more aggressive plans to address climate change and achieve carbon neutrality by 2045.  State policymakers and regulators must carefully consider the consequences and impacts of their plans to the minority communities in this state.

One study estimated that eliminating natural gas and switching to all-electric appliances would cost California residents up to $7,200 and would increase energy bills by $388 per year.

As President of the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, it is my job every day to protect  and advocate for the concerns and needs of the Hispanic community, in particular the Hispanic business community – promoting policies that protect the opportunities that have allowed us to thrive and call California home.   It is why there are deep concerns in our membership about the efforts of some cities – and the state – to eliminate natural gas use in favor of 100% electrification for the state’s energy portfolio.

Pursuing a plan that eliminates a reliable, affordable and comparatively clean source of energy like natural gas will increase energy costs for residents of this state substantially and will hurt businesses that are already struggling to thrive in our state, which has become one of the most expensive in the nation.

Just recently, the California Restaurant Association moved to block these plans in Berkeley, largely because the disproportionate impact on minority restaurant businesses that rely on natural gas stoves to cook the ethnic foods that our communities cherish.

One study estimated that eliminating natural gas and switching to all-electric appliances would cost California residents up to $7,200 and would increase energy bills by $388 per year.  Placing these extraordinary burdens on the most vulnerable members of our community is simply unacceptable, and there has to be a better way.

And our state’s well-documented struggle with wildfires and infrastructure has led to unprecedented electricity blackouts this year, leaving many in our community without power for food, medical devices, schools and more – leaving us unable to carry out the functions of our daily lives.

This is unacceptable.  We deserve better, and will not stand for policies that take energy resources off the table.  Given the problems of our aging electric grid, policymakers should prioritize energy resiliency, reliability and cost as they move us toward a cleaner energy future.

The Hispanic business community and our community at large, support California’s goals to meet the challenge of our changing climate and we applaud those who are working toward innovative solutions that reduce emissions, we believe there is room for a balanced approach that considers costs, reliability, affordability and ultimately choice.

Solar, wind, electricity and natural gas should all be part of the equation as we work to address the environmental challenges of our state and preserve our way of life into the future.  Our Hispanic communities stand ready to help in so many ways, but they also know what is best for their families’ needs.

There’s a lot of work to be done, and our leaders need to remember that the well–being of the Latino Community impacts the overall well-being of all of California.

Ed’s Note: Julian Canete is President & CEO at California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce.

 


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