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By Diana Diamond

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About this blog: So much is right — and wrong — about what is happening in Palo Alto. In this blog I want to discuss all that with you. I know many residents care about this town, and I want to explore our collective interests to help ...  (More)

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Gas use or gas ban? Consider all the good -- and bad -- effects

Uploaded: Sep 1, 2021
We make community decisions all the time. Sometimes we vote "yes" because it seems like the PC way to act. But oftentimes in our patriotic environmental communities, we lend our support to, say, an environmental project, without considering cost or future problems.

Case in point: Menlo Park and Palo Alto are considering banning the use of natural gas in new construction -- homes and businesses, which, in concept, sounds like a good idea, depending on cost, etc. But cities are also saying if a gas appliance you now own breaks, you must get an electric replacement. And some officials, especially in Menlo Park, want legislation that would require home and apartment owners to get rid of all gas appliances within five or ten years. A council decision on a proposed gas ban was deferred Tuesday night, pending additional information.

Let's see: The proposed bans would include beloved gas ranges, gas ovens, gas water heaters, gas fireplaces, gas home heatings -- to name a few. Maybe even a ban on propane for our grills.

I've heard cost estimates ranging from $5,000 to $90,0000 per house to convert some or all appliances to electric.

The trouble is. at least in Palo Alto, the city electricity cost is expensive and the charges are tiered, so many of us, by conversion, would jump to the highest or near highest rates Then add an electric car daily charge to that bill and a higher utilities monthly tax payments and we are beginning to talk about real money. This applies to all households; no discounts for seniors and if you plan to sell, you must first convert your home. (These are only ideas at this point.)

Dare I mention here that all the revenue from utilities in Palo Alto goes directly to the city's Utilities Department, who then has to turn over about $20 million or so to the city's general fund, to use as the council and city manager wish. The transfer is because the city was the "finder" of the department, so it's sort-of like an annual finder's fee.

Yet cities around the state are plunging forward with proposed bans because it's politically correct and environmentally good.

But is this really an environmental benefit or are we just kidding ourselves so that we can feel virtuous and gain country-wide recognition for Palo Alto's no-gas ban -- thus setting a wonderful example that other cities will emulate. "We can be a leader," one council member declared.

But a ban incurs problems. For starters, where will the additional energy come from? That is one of the things Menlo Park is going to look at more thoroughly, which is needed. Palo Alto owns its own utilities system, which purchases some of its energy from PG&E, but have any studies been done on whether their Utilities Department could meet the new electrical needs of the 65,000 or so living here -- plus all those large and small businesses that that will be required to be no-gas-use buildings?

Sure seems like this city will have to look for an additional supplier. But that has an irony of its own. More electricity will have to come from the power plants. And how do these plants get powered? By using natural gas to produce electricity. So, that means using more natural gas so we use less natural gas. It all sounds a bit illogical.

One other ironic thought comes from a column I read recently in the Daily Post. John Kerry, former Secretary of State under Obama, and now Biden's climate policy ambassador, said that even if the U.S. could reduce its CO2 emissions to zero, it wouldn't make much of a global difference. “Not when almost 90% of all of the planet’s global emissions come from outside the U.S. borders. We could go to zero tomorrow and the problem isn’t solved,” Kerry said.

Kerry's statement is worthy of great consideration, but it certainly can't be used as an excuse to do nothing, particularly as a nation. I am not saying that we shouldn't try our best to reduce our emissions -- but do so locally, nationally and globally, acknowledging local efforts won't alter the globe's problem. We must try to get all nations to control their emissions. Many are unwilling because their economy and their people would be affected, and I understand that. But we all have to try together. The problem is too big, the crisis too great, to solve it alone. We need all of us working together.

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills,
on Sep 1, 2021 at 9:18 pm

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Our electricity is very expensive. It is also unreliable. My neighborhood suffered a 5 day outage that was intentionally imposed on us by PG&E two years ago for fire safety. Thankfully our gas stove was operative during that time, as being able to eat warm food was one of the few comforts left to us.

Posted by KOhlson, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Sep 2, 2021 at 9:31 am

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Electricity prices were tiered a few decades ago to encourage people to conserve. Use more? Pay more! That policy is still very firmly entrenched. Palo Alto can do something that many cities cannot - change electricity pricing as an incentive to go all electric. As well, the city can also get more electricity to meet demand, contracting with public and private generation. And while there is much discussion for an all-electric city within 10 years, the silence with regard to pricing and supply is both curious and deafening. But this is one area where many Palo Altans can influence their own future, with solar panels and batteries. Could the city incentivize these, such as with 10-year low/no interest financing as part of your utility bill? This was done in the 70s and 80s with solar hot water. But if the city won't do it, you're just a checkbook away from happiness.

Posted by Sven Thesen, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Sep 2, 2021 at 11:06 am

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Diana and those reading the article / comment, I warmly invite you to see and experience an all electric home (including induction stove, heat pump, convection clothes dryer, hot tub & more), Please come by for a coffee (or tea) and tour, 314 Stanford Ave Palo Alto. Being all electric is saving me $$$ & time. More importantly, it's better for me & my family's health with superior indoor air quality over a gas stove/ powered home plus the much much lower potential for burns and in the long term related to climate change that we are already experiencing now and is only getting worse. Logistics: email me, SvenThesen { } gmail.{ } Given the Delta variant, I would ask that you confirm that you have been vaccinated, we will all wear masks and keep the windows open. I look forward to meeting you and your readers in person at

Posted by Scott+Lamb, a resident of Monta Loma,
on Sep 2, 2021 at 1:15 pm

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Mountain View passed a ban on natural gas in new construction in 2019. At the time I thought it was dumb. But I'm coming around. They may have known what they were doing and just communicated it poorly:

* Is the ban environmentally sound? I think so. In Mountain View, the default energy provider is Silicon Valley Clean Energy, 100% renewable. New construction requires solar panels state-wide now. And I believe in Mountain View, heat pumps are also required for new construction.

* Is it affordable for residents? Maybe. I haven't done the math myself, but IIRC they said with the heat pump installation lifetime cost is expected to be roughly the same. I was surprised by this because my parents say heat pump installation is only cost-effective in Iowa with subsidies. I'm not sure why it'd be more cost-effective in a milder climate. Some day I'll try to go through all the numbers myself.

* Does it improve health and safety? I think so. In particular, until I saw this article Web Link I hadn't realized there's quite a bit of evidence tying natural gas stovetops to respiratory problems and illnesses.

* Can you cook as well without gas? Probably. I hate old-school electric stovetops, but my neighbors swear by induction.

I haven't heard anything about forced replacement of appliances when they break. I think that'd be a terrible idea for heaters in particular. Resistive heating would be expensive month after month, and I don't know how much renewable electric energy is available at night so it also sounds environmentally suspect. Installing a heat pump ground loop is unrealistic. It takes a lot of time and money, so no one's going to undertake it when they need heat right away.

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 2, 2021 at 2:24 pm

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I really don't think our electricity supply is reliable enough. AS it is, we regularly have outages for tree branches on powerlines even when it isn't windy, geese, seagulls or mylar balloons coming into contact with a line and power going out for hours at a time.

We have dangling lines through trees and absolutely nothing being done to put them underground. We have ugly poles with more lamp post toppers than many third world countries.

According to tv commercials, we should not be doing chores or charging devices, including vehicles, when we come home in the evening to keep California "golden" whatever that means. During fire season, all P G & E seems to want to do is turn power off preemptively to prevent a fire.

Somehow, I don't think our power grid provides the amount of power we are told. And, I don't think it is delivered in a very reliable manner. I could be wrong of course, but my experience with our power supply is that it is just not able to keep up.

Posted by Mondoman, a resident of Green Acres,
on Sep 2, 2021 at 4:24 pm

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You write "Being all electric is saving me $$$ & time". This sounds exciting if indeed it pencils out. Is it possible to post some numbers about capital cost of the conversions and monthly cost of gas and electricity before and after the conversion?

Posted by Mondoman, a resident of Green Acres,
on Sep 2, 2021 at 5:06 pm

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If the banning gas scenario comes to pass, I am imagining the new Palo Alto Mediterranean-style living. Laundry drying outdoors on the lines, screening from view the above-ground propane tanks supplying the outdoor grills. Just as in the 19th century, auxiliary outbuildings or shelters are sited near the street or driveway for easy access by the wood pellet delivery company, and perhaps the wood ash removal company. The pellet hot water boilers also provide efficient hydronic heat or warmth to existing forced air systems.

It could be somewhat idyllic, CO2-emissions-free (except for the grill), and apparently even cheaper than gas systems.

Posted by Allen+Akin, a resident of Professorville,
on Sep 2, 2021 at 5:11 pm

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My house was built about 10 years ago, and uses gas for water heater (and radiant heating), clothes dryer, range, and fireplace. There's also an unused outdoor connection for a grill.

If I were forced to switch to all-electric, I'd have to add a new subpanel. The walls are all filled with insulating foam, so the drywall would have to be opened up (and subsequently repaired and repainted) to route new wiring. My rough guess is that the whole project would run somewhere around $120K.

I could buy a Tesla for that much. :-)

Posted by Carol Cross, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills,
on Sep 2, 2021 at 8:16 pm

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I was shocked to read Diane quoting John Kerry saying, "...even if the U.S. could reduce its CO2 emissions to zero, it wouldn't make much of a global difference. “Not when almost 90% of all of the planet's global emissions come from outside the U.S. borders."

Seriously, as one of the world's most industrialized countries, this can't be right. The Union of Concerned Scientists pegs the U.S. as being the second-largest polluter, with only China emitting more harmful gases than our country.

In a way, though, that's beside the point. ALL countries need to switch to clean energy within the next few years if we're to avert the worst of the changes coming our way. There's no time to quibble over who is to blame or who should make changes first. Unless we ALL get our acts together, the floods, hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, etc. that we're seeing now are just a small taste of what's to come.

Posted by Scott+Lamb, a resident of Monta Loma,
on Sep 2, 2021 at 9:32 pm

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Carol, John Kerry's quote and the Union of Concerned Scientists seem consistent to me. He's right that we need worldwide cooperation to solve the problem. And if they're looking at it per capita, they're likely right that we're among the worst. The US has only ~4% of the world's population (330 million out of 7.9 billion), so producing "only" 10% of the CO2 emissions is nothing to be proud of.

Posted by Lillian Davis, a resident of Community Center,
on Sep 3, 2021 at 6:40 am

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John Kerry is not qualified to be an Energy Czar and would have made a poor president as well.

He is fortunate to still have a high-profile job in DC given his lack of anything.

Posted by Eric Fleming, a resident of Barron Park,
on Sep 3, 2021 at 7:58 am

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When we lived in rural Los Altos, we had a large underground propane tank that was periodically re-filled and our vehicles were converted to run on propane as well.

Posted by Patrick+Burt, a resident of Community Center,
on Sep 3, 2021 at 9:44 am

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I'd like to correct some false claims made in the column.
Palo Alto's residential electricity cost is not expensive. When I came off the council in 2016, our rates were around 30% below PG&E, giving us a lot of room to invest in an electrified and reliable utility while staying well below PG&E. Our rates are now ~40% below PG&E.
Second, our power comes from Power Purchase agreements (PPAs) which are contracts we have with suppliers of clean energy; solar, wind, hydro, and landfill natural gas. The additional power that will be needed for electrification will come from new PPAs, primarily solar. Because the cost of solar PPAs has fallen drastically over the past 10 years, new contracts are likely to be below our current average price, even with battery storage systems, Web Link
And yes, our Utilities Department has studied where the new energy will come from for electrification, the answer is yes. It will come from new renewable suppliers and not gas-powered power plants as the column inaccurately claims.
Also, one of the biggest benefits of electrification is not environmental, it is to eliminate the significant and often overlooked public health impacts of methane in our homes, Web Link
Lastly, like other municipal utilities, our city General Fund does receive significant revenue transfer from our Electric Utility, equivalent to what PG&E is allowed to make in profit. This amount is included in our rates that are still 40% below PG&E. Those funds are an important part of the values city services that have recently seen drastic cuts to our police, fire, code enforcement, libraries, parks, and other services.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a resident of Greenmeadow,
on Sep 3, 2021 at 11:00 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Allen, fwiw, I did recently get a sub-panel for electrification. Maybe this info is helpful for you, though all houses are different. Mine is 1955, thoroughly updated in 2010. The place where the boiler/heater/EV are (the garage) is as far away from the main panel as possible. Since the house has no attic or crawl space, my electrician opted to run conduit over the roof, though under the eaves was also an option. He put in circuits and disconnects for the electric heat pumps (space and water) and ran a connection to the kitchen for an induction stove. (He used some kind of funky drill attachment that went down the wall through the insulation.) He rewired the EV charger to the new sub-panel and did random other unrelated outlet/switch things. He is not a cheap electrician but he's good. It took him about five days and cost $7K (well, $6990). If your approach is to start with the sub-panel like that, then you can over time electrify what makes sense for you. (BTW, a used Bolt is a way better deal than a Tesla, esp as they are soon going to be giving out new batteries.)

Every house is different. It's entirely possible that you live in a house that would cost $120K to electrify. But imo that would need to be quite some house.

Posted by Gale+Johnson, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Sep 3, 2021 at 1:23 pm

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Kudos to Mondoman and Pat Burt, one of our best mayors ever, and now serving us again on CC with his wisdom, experience, and understanding of our problems. I think his answers put 'the quiet' on some of his previous posters.

Thanks to Mondoman for asking the same questions I had. If Sven answers them online I don't there will be a need for me to take him up on his offer of the tour.

I live in a Brown and Kaufman built tract home in SPA, built in 1956. It has many of the great features of Eichlers, but wasn't built on a slab. It was built with two utilities in mind, gas and electricity. Gas for furnace forced air heating and hot water heater, and electricity for everything else, including the stove/range and separate oven. I'm not going to get my knickers in a bunch over this issue. I'm 84 years old. I apologize for whatever I might have contributed to climate change over all these years, but I don't plan on getting solar panels installed or upgrading my house to comply with electricity only ordinances, if that ever happens.

Posted by Janice Selznick, a resident of College Terrace,
on Sep 3, 2021 at 1:25 pm

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Interesting to see Climate Envoy John Kerry is mentioned in this thread.

He's currently in China trying to lay the groundwork work for a “Climate Summit" in November.

On Thursday, Yang Jiechi, leader Xi Jinping's top foreign-policy aide, told Kerry that the U.S. had interfered in China's internal affairs and harmed its interests, causing difficulties in the bilateral relationship.

He said that if Kerry wants a climate “deal" from China, the US has to stop complaining about such things as China's treatment of the Uighurs, internal censorship of its population, takeover of Hong Kong, unfair trade practices, sabre-rattling at Taiwan, etc.

Should Kerry take such a deal? Would it be worth it?

Posted by Gale+Johnson, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Sep 3, 2021 at 1:53 pm

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To Janice Selznik

No, but what does a "no" mean anymore after our weak and exposed position on handling the Afghanistan withdrawal? Let's not get caught up in solving our international problems. Let's stay focused on our local problems here in Palo Alto.

Posted by Allen+Akin, a resident of Professorville,
on Sep 3, 2021 at 5:02 pm

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@Sherry: My estimate was based on the actual cost of two projects already completed in this house -- installing heat-pump air conditioning ($40K) and double water-heater replacement ($30K). Those include the cost of replacement appliances; I'm not sure if your $7K project does. Expanding to include all the other appliances that would have to be replaced, covering new wiring to areas that are not easily reached from outdoors, wall repair/repainting, plus trenching and replacing the outdoor connections, brings the estimate up to $120K.

Realistically, this is the sort of expense I would expect if there's a new law mandating a switch to all-electric upon sale of the house, one of the scenarios that's been discussed.

"imo that would need to be quite some house." Electrically, this is a *very* complicated house. One main panel, one full-sized subpanel, one small subpanel. Five 240V circuits already (two are for car chargers). Photovoltaics with whole-house battery backup.

Posted by Eeyore (formerly StarSpring), a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Sep 3, 2021 at 5:08 pm

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Ref Gale+Johnson above: I also live in a similar 1956 Brown & Kaufman in SPA.

I'm trying to find the invoice, but I paid something on the order of $5K to put a 100A subpanel in the garage (via a crawlspace). The electrician wanted another $500 to put in a 50A vehicle charging outlet, but I did that myself for $30.

The $5K included new lighting and outlets in the garage. We upgraded the main panel as part of a kitchen remodel so there was already capacity for the sub.

Normally I'm a real team player, but all of this local feather displaying while serious global issues are largely going unaddressed just rubs me the wrong way.

I do believe the planet has already passed at least one tipping point. We are rearranging deck chairs on the good ship Palo Alto.

Posted by Rvengosh, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle,
on Sep 3, 2021 at 10:41 pm

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Unfortunately, this article is uninformed commentary.

Just a few examples:

The state as a whole is cleaning up its electric power generation. While some of our electricity still comes from natural gas, the share of green / renewable electricity increases annually, and consequently the CO2 content of our electricity declines. For that reason, electric appliances we install today will continue to get greener over time.

While true that most GHG emissions happen outside the US, using that as a reason not to act makes no sense. Every country could correctly (and stupidly) use the same argument to justify inaction. Global warming is a collective action problem, and global efforts are under way to negotiate global emission reductions. To strengthen the hands of the administration in these negotiations, the US must demonstrate that it is serious about getting to a solution, unlike the incompetent and scientifically challenged administration that preceded it.

Yes, some may face increased costs in the transition to clean energy, and government must help subsidize their transition, but we can't use that as justification not to act against the civilization ending threat that is climate change. For a small preview of what lack of action means, one only needs look to the Dixie and Caldor fires; to the deadly floods in NY and NJ, Germany and China and to the mighty storms that hit the gulf.

We must act now, or else the world we live to our kids will be awful.

Posted by Mondoman, a resident of Green Acres,
on Sep 4, 2021 at 12:41 am

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@Patrick+Burt I wasn't aware that methane had significant public health impacts, and your link ended up being a duplicate of the other link about power costs. Could you post the link you had in mind?

@Rvengosh I think your comment "To strengthen the hands of the administration in these negotiations, the US must demonstrate that it is serious about getting to a solution" is really a key point. I am of the opinion that leading by example will have no effect on countries like China, and so demonstrating that we are serious will involve imposing direct costs on China's emissions. I'm thinking of something like a border carbon tax, where all imports would be taxed according to the greenhouse emissions generated by their production.

Regarding the supposed current disastrous manifestations of climate change, digging into the science a bit doesn't seem to support many current media claims. For example, we've known for more than half a century that our practices of wildland fire suppression were not only unnatural, but were creating a tinderbox that would greatly increase the intensity and extent of future fires.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a resident of Greenmeadow,
on Sep 4, 2021 at 10:32 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Allen, thanks for the helpful info. Your costs to date certainly seem to support your estimate. I'm curious to understand them better, so feel free to reach out by email if you want to discuss further. A couple of Menlo Park's environmental commissioners are helping San Mateo County with a project to develop electrification plans for 10 homes across the county. I think that study will reflect the diversity of these projects and is a great idea. Maybe we can do something similar in our county or even our city.

One thing you are also saying is that there can be a big difference in cost between cutting out most of your emissions and zeroing out all of your emissions. I agree with that and think it's an important point. I believe it's something the city understands and worries about, because there's a significant cost advantage to removing gas lines rather than continuing to maintain them for ever decreasing volumes of gas.

@Mondo: It is absolutely the case that some of our forest management practices have made wildfires more likely. It is absolutely also the case that the heat and longer dry spells from global warming have made wildfires more likely (and I think also bigger and more intense). Ironically, it is absolutely also the case that some of our land management practices (globally) have *decreased* the likelihood of fires (e.g., converting savannah in Africa to agriculture). I'm not sure which "media claims" you are referring to, but I always like [Web Link Carbon Brief], though that writeup has a very global slant. You might be interested in [Web Link this recent study], which is more local and shows the influence of both factors.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a resident of Greenmeadow,
on Sep 4, 2021 at 10:34 am

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Sorry, for the second study, this is the link: Web Link

Posted by Patrick+Burt, a resident of Community Center,
on Sep 4, 2021 at 11:12 am

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Here's the correct source link on the health risks of methane/natural gas use in homes, Web Link

Posted by Eeyore (formerly StarSpring), a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Sep 4, 2021 at 2:02 pm

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WRT California wildfires. The forests have to burn, right? I don't know if the more intense fires we get from the earlier, misguided, attempts at fire suppression release more CO2, or not. I suspect it is the same. Anyway, unless we log the entire state these natural sources of carbon emissions have to be factored in to our overall plan to save the planet. I care far less about anthrogenic release of methane than the release of arctic reserves of the gas - another tipping point we may well have passed.

Posted by Allen+Akin, a resident of Professorville,
on Sep 4, 2021 at 5:09 pm

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@Sherry: A pilot study is a great idea. I'm OK with a no-new-gas-hookups policy, though concerns about electric service reliability should be addressed. (Transmission-line redundancy? Microgrids? Utility-level backups?)

Beyond that, there's a lot of uncertainty. Unfunded mandates will increase resistance (so to speak). Incentive programs seem more attractive, but also more expensive, and I have no idea how effective such programs have been here in Palo Alto.

I wasn't thinking in terms of the marginal cost of bringing gas use to zero rather than reducing it, but your point is well-taken. Isn't the City's decision simpler, though? Once so few people (in a given area) are using gas that it's cheaper to pay for conversion than it is to maintain the supply, do so. Otherwise continue whatever programs were already established to reduce usage.

I proposed using an electrically-backed heat-pump water heating system for my current house, but my architect and contractor argued convincingly that such systems weren't reliable enough at that time. Nor were induction cooktops competitive with gas for certain types of cooking back then. And of course we replaced a wood-burning fireplace with a gas-burning fireplace. That wasn't so long ago, so I wonder whether revisiting all those decisions offers the best environmental return on investment now.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a resident of Greenmeadow,
on Sep 4, 2021 at 9:08 pm

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"I wonder whether revisiting all those decisions offers the best environmental return on investment now."

Exactly. The hard thing about building electrification in our area, imo, is that the weather is temperate, so we don't use/need that much heating/cooling to start with, which makes it much harder to recoup the capital costs of the hvac work, particularly since construction costs are so high. These changes pencil out easier in places where you need a lot of cooling, for example. Heat pumps are *all over* the south.

I also think it's harder when you have a new house, because you are throwing more away. This is where the gas offsets start to make sense, and offsets more generally. The argument is you get more bang for your environmental buck by solving emissions somewhere else, where it's cheaper to solve. Preference should be given to highly verifiable and local offsets. It's not the same as cleaning up your own mess, but I think in some situations it can make sense. You could probably electrify houses elsewhere for less money and more impact.

If it makes you feel better, people in my neighborhood are electrifying almost by accident. Here's what happens. They have an old house. The radiant starts leaking or the furnace ages out. They notice the summer's gotten warmer and smokier, so they like the idea of getting air-conditioning. The heat pump appliances (e.g., mini splits) solve their heating problem and they get free A/C. The cost for mini splits is anywhere from $6K to $25K depending on how many heads they want. Then they spend $5K on a heat pump water heater when theirs breaks, and suddenly their house is practically all-electric without even trying. (I guess they had to spend a few thousand more on random electrical work, plus many have an EV charger.)

I do hope we can do a study of different kinds of houses, as well as create rates that incentivize switching from gas to electric. (If you have a mini-split for A/C you should want to heat with it too.)

Posted by AlexDeLarge, a resident of Midtown,
on Sep 5, 2021 at 1:11 am

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Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Sep 5, 2021 at 8:34 am

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Pat Burt et al -- Of course out utilities are more expensive when we're being -- and have long been -- overcharged $20,000,000 each and every year to feed the consultant gravy train. The outages last way too long with no alerts or warning when they'll end.

Whenever CPAU raises rates -- due to go up 3.5% this year and 5% in each of the next few years -- we're told "Oh, you conserved too much so we had to raise rates." The city attorney said the only way to object to these rate hikes is if 11,000 -- ELEVEN THOUSAND -- residents go through a complicated multi-step process!

As if that's going to happen. Where's the accountability?? And this is on top of 2 successful class action lawsuits against overcharges! Where's the shame??

Did you forget that CA's power grid is still so unreliable the state suffers from constant blackout and brownout threats?

This should be a municipal disgrace not a cause for you to celebrate. I compare the cost of my gas heat and gas dryer and would willingly accept its cost and reliability over the unreliable and costly electric.

Posted by Mondoman, a resident of Green Acres,
on Sep 5, 2021 at 11:11 am

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@Patrick+Burt Ahh, thanks for the link. I see from it that it's not methane itself that is the problem, but rather burning it in gas stoves. We've got gas forced air heating and gas water heater, but electric stove, so we should be OK. I feel better knowing the specifics.

Posted by Deborah, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Sep 5, 2021 at 11:13 am

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Diana - I have been a fan of yours for ages. If anyone is going to hit the mark on Palo Alto politics it's you. I agree that anything other than requiring all electric in new construction would be a terrible mistake. However, in regards to this post, that's about all I agree with. In fact, you make a couple of damaging and misleading statements. I don't know if 90% of greenhouse gas emission are outside the US, but I do know that per capita, American's are number 2, Canada being number 1.

In terms of natural gas service not being much of a greenhouse emissions contributor, it's not the burning of the gas that's the problem. The problem is the fact that methane has 40 times more green house effect than CO2 and that you can't make pipelines that don't leak. Leaks from natural gas is the source of 18% of US green house emissions. (Sherry Listgarten is my source on this.)

Instead of using your blog to impede the efforts of those working to mitigate climate change, i wish you'd said something along the lines of "what we really need is a 50% tax on all fossil fuels, tax money that should pay for infrastructure changes necessary to change homes and vehicles to all electric."

Posted by Mondoman, a resident of Green Acres,
on Sep 5, 2021 at 11:46 am

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@Sven I took a look at your website as suggested, and really enjoyed the "booklet" (really, a thorough report!) on the various energy saving features of your home construction and mechanicals.

It seems like a key to your low energy needs is that the house was designed and built to require little active heating/cooling. I wonder if you have any suggestions of good bang for the buck add-ons or modest renovation projects for those with more traditionally-constructed houses?

Posted by Mondoman, a resident of Green Acres,
on Sep 5, 2021 at 12:26 pm

Mondoman is a registered user.

@Deborah It's interesting to take a look at a table of per capita greenhouse emissions (e.g. Web Link )

As of 2018, we in the US were #11, with Canada #9 and Australia #6. The other countries in between there are arguably outliers, mostly Gulf oil states. Interestingly, in the last 20 years, the US and Australia have reduced their emissions roughly 20% each, while Canada cut its emissions about 10%.

Also interesting, as of 2018, China already had per capita emissions about equal to Austria or Norway, and just under half those of the US. It seems clear that by the year 2030 (when it says it will stop increasing emissions) China will have become the top historical (total) emitter of greenhouse gases and will have surpassed the EU countries in per capita emissions, approaching US levels.

Posted by Diana Diamond, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Sep 5, 2021 at 4:58 pm

Diana Diamond is a registered user.

To All:

I've refrained from responding to date because the comments and views have been divided, and I wanted to see all these points of view. To all, thank you for your cogent and interesting comments.I think we all appreciate them.

Pat Burt, among others, has said that the additional electricity we will need if we go all electric, will come from new renewable supplies. If they are "new" (as yet unavailable, I think), how can we be assured we will have enough of solar, wind and other renewable sources that we haven't yet been able to rely upon exclusively? Does he have data? Or does the city have contracts?

Second, t the U.S. contributes only 10 percent of the CO2 wmission-- other nations (like China and India) are the culprits. Hohn Kerry said that, and I was quoting hm. But from some figures Ive seen, that ratio is not an exageration.

So if we here in Palo Alto want to go all-electric, how much C02 will we be saving nationally? .05 percent? No one knows, I suspect.

Third, as one blogger here said, the cost of utilities in Palo Alto are going up -- 3.5% this year and then 5% for the next threveral years (COMPOUNDED), and Pat said that helps the city get its needed money.

But utility rates are regressive -- the 5% increases apply to all households, not just the rich. Can the low income afford such hikes? Does the city care?

And most of all, which Pat didn't address, what about the cost to individuals to electrify their house? Some people quoted some costs they have paid -- all are five-digit expenditures. Should people, especially elderly ones, have to pAy $5,000 to $50,000 just to electrify their houses before they sell them?

And BTW, the city has been talking all this time about reducing CO2 problems -- not about the methane in our houses.

I know a lot of you disagree with my points, but let's discuss both sides and try to fairly solve this gnawing problem, keeping in mind the costs to the individuals that live here and whether that individual cost mpact is a solution to global warming. There ay be better ways to use this money.


Posted by maguro_01, a resident of Mountain View,
on Sep 8, 2021 at 11:49 am

maguro_01 is a registered user.

Again, may I add another point to a thread on this subject. This is a major earthquake area. In the event of the Big One, most of the casualties and damage is likely to come from fires, very hard to fight without power or water pressure. Even with shutoff valves and the like most of the fires would likely start from gas service. Because of quakes, our neighborhoods and even apartments are of stick and plywood construction and vulnerable. There really shouldn't be gas service around here at all, not even gas mains.

We know that gas stoves are regarded by many as superior to electric ones. But today it should be easily possible to make continuously variable electric stoves rather than the old units with detented controls. If replacements are too expensive, perhaps the utility can make bulk purchases, offshore if necessary. Such stoves for the next year or two may be scarce from component shortages though.

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 8, 2021 at 10:37 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

Today we had a Flex Alert. We have another tomorrow. It is second week of September and we have another 6 weeks of expected heat and expected fire danger.

Thinking about this Flex Alert. Not using power between 4 and 9 is not easy. In Palo Alto, not that many of us have A/C and if we have been out during the day the house is probably quite cool enough, but yes we can try not to use our A/C. No laundry, no charging devices, no plugging in cars, and if you are electric, no cooking until after 9pm. Homework on devices not charged because they have been in use all day at school is difficult. Waiting until after 9 to start homework is too late. Laundry may well be sweaty PE and sportswear, starting after 9 to do laundry is late, but doable. Plugging in cars after 9 is fairly easy. Waiting until 9 to start cooking dinner, not happening. Those who can cook with gas have no concerns about cooking dinner.

I suppose eating dinner out means someone else uses power. Otherwise, cold food or microwaved pizza or tv dinners for those who cook with electric. Or just ignore the Flex Alert and do what we have to do to live our lives using power.

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