Santa Monica, and many other cities, are moving away from natural gas because of the climate crisis. Using gas to make electricity or to heat homes is more polluting than doing so with solar or wind. It is estimated that natural gas (methane) is roughly 30 times more potent as a heat-trapping gas than carbon.

The City of Santa Monica recently amended its building code to favor electricity over gas in new construction. Recognizing that natural gas is a fuel preferred by some and a part of our existing energy supply system, the City is providing a pathway that will allow natural gas to continue to be used, in exchange for other energy efficiencies. It is hoped that natural gas usage will gradually decline. This is a positive step. Climate Action Santa Monica supported the city’s plans and offered suggestions for additional measures.

At recent City Council hearings on this issue, our local gas company, SoCal Gas, made the case that gas is a vital part hour energy infrastructure moving forward, and that the city should plan for ongoing use of gas and developing renewable natural gas. Some of their arguments made sense. Solar and other renewables have, for the time being, some limitations. There just aren’t enough batteries for storing the solar power generated during the day so that it can be used at night. Sometimes there is not enough solar, wind power, or other forms of renewable energy available to meet peak demand, for example on extremely hot days when everyone is running air conditioning. So, for the time being, it looks like we are committed to continued use of natural gas, with the hope that our reliance will decrease over time.

Are we fully aware of the risks that come with our continued commitment to gas?

We should be.

A report by the California Council on Science and Technology states that a nearby natural gas storage facility, in Playa del Rey, is problematic. It has a history of gas leaks, and industrial scale gas leaks can be particularly harmful to our climate. In addition, the report states the facility “located near a large population center in a very high wildfire hazard zone, stands out as a facility with relatively higher risk to health and safety than the other facilities in California. Aliso Canyon, Honor Rancho, and La Goleta also present higher health and safety risks than other facilities because of their locations near large numbers of people.”

Several groups have recently begun to call for closure of the Playa Del Rey facility, making us all more aware of the full cost associated with continued use of our natural gas infrastructure. Legislation has been introduced to investigate the facility and its compliance with local health and safety rules.

We do not have a lot of choice in who provides our gas. But we can, for the safety of our children, friends, and family, and for the health of the planet, be vocal and conscientious consumers. We can question why this gas storage facility is so problematic. We can go electric when it’s time to replace a home furnace, clothes dryer, stove, or car. We can install solar panels on our homes, or ask our landlord or homeowners group to consider it. We can let our elected officials know that we support taking action to move away from gas and provide more safer renewable electricity. If we do so, perhaps one day we will no longer need to have troublesome gas storage in our backyard.

Thinking about going electric?

Check out new electric cars and other technologies at Alt Car Expo in Santa Monica on November 2!

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