February 22, 2021 By Ramona du Houx A group of elected officials, Elected Officials to Protect America, say California must stop using gas for electricity, for the health and safety of residents and to stop fueling the climate crisis. They say now is the time to build out more clean energy sources, like wind and solar to ensure blackouts don’t […]
A group of elected officials, Elected Officials to Protect America, say California must stop using gas for electricity, for the health and safety of residents and to stop fueling the climate crisis. They say now is the time to build out more clean energy sources, like wind and solar to ensure blackouts don’t happen again.
Some cities in California are moving forward ridding themselves of fossil fuels step by step. 42 California cities and counties have strongly discouraged or banned gas hookups in new buildings, including San Luis Obispo.
“We’ve enacted building codes to ensure gas is not used. Our city runs on 100 percent clean energy. Every city that takes these steps shows we don’t need fossil fuels.Our people shouldn’t suffer rolling blackouts because of an antiquated grid that relies on gas to power it,” said San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon, Elected Officials to Protect California Leadership Council Co-Chair. “It’s not too late to mitigate what’s happening, but the governor needs to take action and transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy now. For the health and wellbeing of our people, we have to become a clean energy economy.”
Gas is now the country’s largest fuel source for generating electricity, surpassing coal in 2016. Yet solar and wind are now the cheapest sources of electricity in most of the world. And gas has proven to be dangerous and unreliable.
Climate Central, a nonprofit research group, analyzed federal data in 2020 and found that hurricanes, wildfires, heat storms and other extreme weather events caused 67 percent more power outages in the United States during the decade ending in 2019 than they did during the previous decade.
Coal and gas-fired power plants need to be phased out to avoid the worst consequences of a climate crisis because burning them exacerbates extreme weather.Usage of these fossil fuels causes climate change which is rapidly warming conditions in the Arctic. Scientific evidence has linked this trend to extreme storms like the recent winter storm that devastated Texas and other states, and the extreme heat that devastated California last summer causing blackouts, as the state experienced four of its five hottest August days in the last 35 years.
Last summer’s rolling blackouts, the first of this magnitude in 20 years, occurred because the Californian grid was short about 1 to 2 gigawatts for two evenings accordingto Bloomberg News. Texas was short about 15 to 25 gigawatts for two straight days, which is staggering. The root cause of both is over reliance on one fossil fuel — gas.
In the Golden State, the California Public Utilities Commission has not truly planned for clean energy infrastructure. It continues to rely on gas, despite the reality that clean energy could replace those gas fired power plants.
In Culver City they’ve taken bigger steps.
“We’re phasing out oil drilling in the Culver City portion of the Inglewood oil field, which happens to be the largest urban oil field in the United States,” saidMeghan Sahli-Wells Former Culver City Mayor, and Elected Officials to Protect America – California State Director. “We transitioned to 100 percent renewable energy in 2019 and passed progressive transportation, housing, energy, waste, and water policies, which have significantly reduced our dependence on fossil fuels. We’re doing it in Culver City and we can do it in the rest of the state, in fact, we must.”
Culver City is a member of the Clean Power Alliance, a locally operated electricity provider serving Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.
“Our community which is a low-income, farm worker, immigrant community has said no to continuing obsolete fossil fuel power plants. We said no to the natural gas-fired power plant on our ocean, and now have a hundred-megawatt clean energy storage. If we can stand up to the industry giants, why can’t the governor?” asked Ventura County Supervisor Carmen Ramirez Esq., Elected Officials to Protect America – California Leadership Council Member. “He has to think about the children who grow up in these polluted areas. They must be given a future.”
The city of Lancaster has taken a giant step further becoming the first city in America to be run on Hydrogen power. Hydrogen has wide-reaching benefits, including improving the air quality, providing a secure and reliable energy source, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and creating highly skilled jobs.
“Hydrogen is the future … The transition to hydrogen does not have to be limited to the world’s most famous large cities. In fact, cities our size can do some things they can’t. Current plans include building out hydrogen fueling stations for light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles. We support the state’s goals for GHG reductions and hydrogen is a great way to get there faster,” said Mayor Rex Parris.
Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose have banned natural gas in all or most new buildings. These building codes require all electric heating and cooking because gas is an indoor air pollutant and a greenhouse gas contributor. But L.A. hasn’t enacted such a code, despite Mayor Eric Garcetti in April 2019 announcing that all new buildings should be “net-zero carbon” by 2030.
The California Public Utilities Commission has cited the Los Angeles Basin’s continued dependence on gas-fired power plants as a reason it does not shut down the Aliso Canyon gas storage field. Yet, the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility had the worst gas leak in US history with a methane blowout that spewed gases into the atmosphere and sickened residents.
In Texas this week, gas wells froze and pipelines struggled to move as much fuel as normal, which made their energy prices skyrocket, while electricity shut down. In Texas 61percent of homes rely on electricity for heating and most of the rest use gas directly to heat.
Traditional fossil fuel power plants have put Texans in the dark, suffering by the millions, with deaths mounting, in freezing temperatures. Most of the power generators that were frozen solid or unable to access fuel in Texas aren’t wind turbines, they were fossil fuel plants. ERCOT, Texas’s main power grid, only got 23 percent of its electricity from wind last year, with the bulk coming from coal and gas.
The problem in Texas was compounded because they chose to run most of their electric grid in isolation from the rest of the country, so they couldn’t import energy to help. After a 2011 storm hit Texas, similar to this one this past week, the Federal Regulatory Commission (FERC) investigated and released a detailed report advising Texas to insulate their electrical infrastructure from cold weather. But because most of Texas is deregulated, the majority of the state does not have to be accountable to FERC, nor does ERCOT.
California has a semi-independent aging grid. FERC still regulates it because energy can be imported from other states. But with the extreme heat of last summer hitting the region, energy couldn’t be imported.Those states needed it.
While California prides itself on being environmentally friendly, policies have shown that an addiction to fossil fuels is still very evident. More alternative clean energy sources need to be built out to make the grid safer and reliable, so when the next heatwave happens people won’t suffer needlessly.
EOPA-CA understands the grid is outdated and needs major changes. While making those upgrades the state has to make sure clean renewable energies are used as its power sources.
With President Biden’s pledge to achieve 100 percent clean energy by 2035, California should see the writing on the wall and stop its over dependence on gas.