California leaders have said loud and clear that we won’t back away from our commitment to build clean energy and reduce climate pollution.
But for California to achieve its goals, it must address a source of climate pollution that is largely unchecked and literally hits close to home: the buildings where we live and work.
Gas-powered appliances such as space and water heaters produce massive amounts of climate-damaging pollution. In fact, gas burned for heating is responsible for nearly as much carbon pollution as all of the state’s power plants combined.
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A recent investigation by the California Energy Commission and the Public Utilities Commission found that the state’s dirty gas networks leak more methane – 86 times more damaging than carbon – every year than the entire Aliso Canyon gas blowout, which is considered one of the worst man-made environmental disasters ever.
Our buildings are a major source of pollution because there is a lack of public education and funding. Those who want to do something about climate change are missing one of the easiest ways to act – switch from gas appliances to cleaner, electric ones.
Communities are already benefiting from doing so. The state is home to several of the nation’s largest all-electric low-income housing developments. Residents in these homes with on-site solar have utility bills about 90 percent lower than residents with gas appliances and no solar. The $1,000 a year in savings is no small change to families that are struggling to make ends meet.
But not every family, community and business has the means to make these upgrades. Our leaders should provide rebates and electricity rates similar to what the state offers to electric vehicle drivers.
The California Air Resources Board’s current plan to reduce carbon pollution is a step forward but falls short of what’s needed to get dirty fossil fuels out of buildings. The plan doesn’t call for rebates, or for updating building codes, or workforce development opportunities. To help drive change, CARB must establish the state’s first greenhouse gas reduction goal for buildings.
Rachel Golden is senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club in Oakland. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.