For years, residents of Santa Bárbara have demanded strong climate and clean energy targets and have supported long-planned updates to the building code to achieve this.
Katie Davis (photo from the Noozhawk file)
Unfortunately, recent spam texts that were misleading and legally questionable by gas interests spread incorrect information, which was further amplified by Santa Bárbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Comment by Kristen Miller on January 17, “Santa Barbara City Council Should Focus on Economy, Not Overreach on Natural Gas Ban.”
In the name of Community Environmental Council, himself a member of the chamber, would like to correct the record and offer some good news about the City of Santa Barbara plans for a “REACH Code” ordinance.
Like dozens of other California cities, Santa Barbara is in the process of updating its building code to require new all-electric buildings – which is good news for the health and affordability of homes. Not building gas lines and dual power systems saves $ 5,000 per home, according to state utility codes and standards improvement staff.
According to a study for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Energy, all-electric homes save homeowners $ 130 to $ 540 a year on utility bills, compared to homes that burn gas. And they are also much healthier to live.
The combustion of gas inside our homes produces harmful indoor air pollution, specifically nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitric oxide, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and ultrafine particles.
In fact, children who live in a house with a gas stove are 42% more likely to have asthma. That’s why American Institute of Architects of California favors all-electric building codes, including efficient induction cookers and heat pumps, which can heat and cool houses, making them healthier and more comfortable to live in.
It is important to understand the benefit of accessibility because cost has been the main target of misinformation. For example, Miller’s comment incorrectly cited a study that included a high “electrification cost” of $ 7,345 per home to renovate an existing home that is not relevant to new buildings.
The study also used inflated electrical costs and optimistic gas prices, based on the same erroneous assumptions as a Navigant study commissioned by SoCalGas that was discredited by energy and climate experts before the California Energy Commission. Independent studies by the state of California confirm the cost savings of moving to a fully electric construction.
This was confirmed by the energy team and experts at the last Santa Bárbara City Council meeting. Experts and affordable home builders support updating the code.
We, from the Community Environmental Council, are concerned that the ties of the newly formed chamber and the financing of the fossil fuel industry may lead it to reflectively ally with the interests of oil and gas, without taking into account the benefits and objectives of proposal and without listening to the many Santa Claus Barbara organizations, companies, architects, builders and energy companies that support this policy.
Santa Bárbara has very few people employed in the construction of a new gas infrastructure, if any. It has a large number of people employed in areas such as green construction, solar energy, tourism and technology.
Solar energy is among the fastest growing employment segments in the country, and solar companies in Santa Bárbara support this policy, as all-electric buildings are ideal for solar energy.
Santa Bárbara’s environmental leadership and green reputation are an important asset to attract companies and visitors. Companies benefit from reduced air pollution and healthy, affordable housing for their employees.
The chamber also claims that the proposed building code would have little or no effect on global climate change, but natural gas consumption accounted for more than 20 percent of direct emissions in the Santa Bárbara Climate Action Plan.
There is no way to meet our climate goals without addressing these emissions, and the most economical place to start is with new buildings. Santa Bárbara is on track to meet its goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, so all-electric homes will be fossil-free, an impossibility for gas-powered homes.
The answer to “Power cuts for public safety, fires and blackouts” is no longer fuel gas that further damages our health and safety.
The driving force behind these problems is climate change. The solution is to stop burning fossil gas and harden our network, which we are doing. Commercial battery storage projects are being built in Carpinteria and Goleta. Solar / battery systems for buildings are now more affordable than solar systems just a few years ago and can be financed.
Above all, solar / battery systems are more accessible when installed in new all-electric buildings. Southern California Edison, which operates our network, supports updating the building electrification code.
The final argument against the new all-electric construction is that people prefer natural gas for cooking, but that is changing as familiarity with superior induction cookers increases – which do not burn your fingers or toxic gas from the gas. Big cities like San Francisco are doing this, and Santa Barbara too.
We will find that these small adjustments will improve our lives and are much less disruptive than the climate-driven cataclysms that will come if we cannot get rid of fossil fuels.
We will continue to be proud of Santa Bárbara’s environmental leadership and to embrace efforts to build safe, healthy and affordable buildings designed for our fossil-free future.
– Katie Davis is a member of President Council of the Community Environmental Council and president of Santa Barbara Sierra Club Group. The views expressed are her own.