Brickbats

Brickbat: It's a Gas, Gas, Gas

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The Berkeley, Calif., City Council has unanimously voted to ban all new low-rise residential buildings from using natural gas. The buildings must have all-electric utilities. Council members say the move is aimed at combating global warming. The law also creates a $273,341-a-year post in the city's Building and Safety Division to implement the natural gas ban.

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  1. Electricity is a means of transmitting energy. It is not a source of energy. What are the primary sources of Berkeley’s electrical grid? With transmission losses, it might be burning more gas than used directly.

    1. Absolutely correct. And when you convert energy there is always loss, so gas is more efficient.

      1. That’s probably not the hill to stand on here.

        “And when you convert energy there is always loss”

        That’s not necessarily true, electric heating elements are 100% efficient at converting electrical energy to heat (when the thing you want is the thing that inefficiency causes that becomes possible); and moving that generation of energy to a power plant does have potential benefits even if you’re using the same or even worse fuel. Basically it allows you to focus your improvement efforts at one point (ie: efficiency and emission improvements at the source benefit all the end users without requiring them to change anything).

        The issue here is, like when they banned plastic bags due to the environmental impact, it’s a moderate cost for a minuscule improvement; like buying a new energy efficient AC when you haven’t fixed your roof that was blown off in the last tornado.

        1. That’s not necessarily true, electric heating elements are 100% efficient at converting electrical energy to heat (when the thing you want is the thing that inefficiency causes that becomes possible);

          Except I don’t just want a mass of hot air above my stove. Technically, induction is more efficient than either one but, personally, everything that isn’t charcoal or hardwood searing, broiling, or smoking meat is considerably less efficient at meeting my expectations.

        2. electric heating elements are 100% efficient at converting electrical energy to heat

          And when you burn gas on your stovetop, 100% of that heat is produced on your stovetop. Your electrical heating element doesn’t pull electricity out of the air – in the case of Berkeley it’s getting there by burning gas somewhere else entirely, converting that heat into electricity (at considerably less than 100% efficiency), and then transmitting that electricity to your heating coil, which then creates heat with 100% efficiency with what’s left.

          You also blow through a fair amount of electricity waiting for your burners to get hot, which happens immediately with gas.

        3. But power plants are only 40% efficient or less. Add losses in the power grid and only about 30% of the energy from burning gas, coal, or oil at the power plant reaches the home. Burning the gas at home is _much_ more efficient than burning it at a power plant and using electricity.

          Possibly these halfwits think the electricity comes from renewable sources – but most cooking is done either in the evening or in the early morning, when there is no solar power, and the wind is likely to be dying. And quite likely they just don’t know anything about power systems, and don’t bother to find out.

          1. Possibly these halfwits think the electricity comes from renewable sources

            I think they do – Brown promised some years back to make CA’s whole grid carbon-free, and lots seem to have naively taken him at his word.

            The specific part of the East Bay that Berkeley is in, however, isn’t fed by much, if any, renewable or carbon-free sources, such that “they just don’t know anything about power systems, and don’t bother to find out.”

          2. “these halfwits”
            You’re entirely too kind; they’d be far more intelligent if they were half-witted,

            1. if they were half as smart as they thought they were, they’d still be twice as smart as they actually are.

          3. Combined cycle can be more than that, and they’re thinking about their utopian all renewable future.

            You guys are calling Berkeley short sighted while you’re just as short sighted in a different way, efficiency isn’t the only thing (IE paying in efficiency to get better emissions is a trade-off often made). They’re laughing at you while you’re laughing at them and neither of you really understands the whole problem.

            This (and plastic bans in the US) are dumb because even if there is a net positive it’s infintessimally small and it’s a major inconvenience. There are literally a million other things they could do that would be better returns on effort.

        4. “electric heating elements are 100% efficient at converting electrical energy to heat (when the thing you want is the thing that inefficiency causes that becomes possible)”

          Bullshit; there is visible light emitted from all electric heating elements.

          1. Yeah it’s not significant, but that’s okay you’re doing the exact same thing Berkeley is doing; worrying about insignificant effects.

    2. While this move might ultimately increase the city’s carbon footprint, that is more than offset by its increased virtue footprint.

      1. “…increased virtue footprint” That, and the $273,341-a-year post is the whole point.

      2. Since I doubt Berkeley has its own power plant, it’s increasing a different city’s carbon footprint, which is totes ok.

    3. What are the primary sources of Berkeley’s electrical grid?

      Gas-fired plants in Antioch and Pittsburgh, about 20 miles to the northeast. Where the blue-collar people live.

  2. Can you not just get a bottle of propane and getter done like Hank Hill?

    1. The only woman I’m pimping is sweet lady propane! And I’m tricking her out all over this town.

    2. You can get large tanks for residential use that will hold a month’s or more supply of LP. No idea if you could get permits to install them inside the Berkeley city limits, I suspect not. A portable bottle, won’t last for more than a couple of days (if that long) with full scale residential use (heat/hot water/cooking).

  3. The Berkeley City Council won’t give you gas, but you can still fart in their general direction.

    1. They only smell their own.

  4. Given that California won’t build any new power plants and the existing grid is chronically overloaded, the rolling blackouts in Berkeley will ensure that the People’s Republic will lead the way in minimizing their carbon footprint.

    1. California will just sue Nevada or Wyoming to provide California with power.

      1. Enron?

      2. Wasn’t 2000 fun? Nobody seems to remember.

    2. Should be only eating cold vegetables anyway.

  5. That SFGate article read like a press release. No journalism to be found anywhere. Simple stenography.

    1. Only a nonbeliever would say that.

    2. The Chron has 15 columnists or so, and maybe one or two actual ‘reporters’ left.
      Send ’em a press release without too may typos and they’re not gonna waste time with a key-stroke entry. Copy-paste; done.

  6. Sounds good to me. Hopefully more California cities will do this and lower the price of gas that I pay.

  7. So, a city banning another legal product. The commerce clause is truly dead.

    1. The Commerce Clause only limits the federal government. States retain “general police powers”. That is, they can pass any law they like unless that specific authority has been explicitly taken away from them. For example, the Fourth Amendment incorporated the protections of the First Amendment against the states so they can’t infringe your speech any more than the feds can. But the Commerce Clause was only ever about interstate commerce therefore it can’t be incorporated under the 14th therefore states are under no such restriction.

      Footnote: As a legal matter, cities, townships and all other forms of local government are considered subordinate parts of the state. They have the same legal rights and powers as the state unless the state itself limited those powers.

      1. Or maybe here’s a better way to think about it.

        When the city banned the product, it was no longer legal. Cities and states are not only allowed but encouraged to pass different laws. That’s what we mean by the states as “laboratories of democracy”. So they didn’t ban a legal product – they made a once-legal product illegal.

        The states powers are limited only by what has specifically been preempted – and there’s no obvious preemption statute for natural gas. The Commerce Clause alone doesn’t do it.

  8. Root cause analysis =
    “The law also creates a $273,341-a-year post in the city’s Building and Safety Division to implement the natural gas ban.”

  9. I can score you some coke and some grade one grass
    But I can’t get a gallon of gas
    I’ve got some downers some speed all the drugs that you need
    But I can’t get a gallon of gas
    There’s no more left to buy or sell
    There’s no more oil left in the well
    A gallon of gas can’t be purchased anywhere
    For any amount of cash

    Also, kill ya some eagles & hawks & bats w/my windmills, but NO fracking for YOU!

    Thanks CaliFuckheads!!!!

  10. Given the general climate of Berkely I don’t see this as a very big deal. That’s too bad… 🙂

  11. That’s ok: they don’t allow building anyway.

  12. For 150 straight years, year after year, air pollution in the US got worse and worse, until 2007. The reason why every single year after that our air is now getting cleaner? Natural gas fired power plants. If I lived in an older home in Berkeley I’d unplug my coal chute and fire up the old boiler and tell those fucking chuckle heads and their new commissioner to go fuck themselves.

    1. Better yet, just don’t live there.

      1. Better better yet, pray for a strategic earthquake.

        1. +1, big

  13. Next up: Berkeley to ban showers and clothes washing, since they discovered how energy is being “wasted” in hot water heaters. The city council will reference UCB “studies”, including some performance art investigations, that prove how cleanliness is an oppressive Western male construct, and that people of color feel better when not forced to wash every day.

    1. “”Next up: Berkeley to ban showers and clothes washing, since they discovered how energy is being “wasted” in hot water heaters.””

      The real purpose of those smart meters.

      1. Probably half the population of Berkeley never showers or changes their clothes, so how would they notice?

        1. Probably half the population of Berkeley never showers or changes their clothes

          But, interestingly enough, only a quarter of the Berkeley population is homeless.

    2. They’ll just force folks to use a 36 kW tankless electric heater. I expect the power will be out in Berkeley every morning as folks shower and the grid overloads.
      Hey, that would really cut their carbon footprint. Great thinking Berkeley!

  14. I hope the foodies rebel against this BS! Everyone knows that gas is far superior for cooking than electric, also heating hot water, and drying clothes, so them poor folk that the progs love so much will have to pay a lot more for their electric bills, instead of giving their kids lunch money, or new clothes. But hey, it makes everyone feel good to do something “for the children”

    1. The foodies have been the first to take up arms. The restaurant industry in Berkeley is second only to the University. And the city hates the University, so restaurants are #1, really.

  15. I’ve got a feeling that it’s going to get expensive fast. Gas is typically much cheaper to heat water and cook with. When you add in the increased electrical requirements a water heater is running 30-35 amps meaning 10 or 8 gauge wire plus an equal amount for a clothes dryer another 40 amps for the range/oven and you’re likely looking at 200 amp service at a minimum.

    My guess is that someone on the council has a serious play in copper and aluminum going on or a relative running the local electricians union.

    1. you’re likely looking at 200 amp service at a minimum

      Which means that if they move to make everyone retrofit, which we all know is the next step, most houses in Berkeley are going to need upgraded service, which is going to take PG&E a few years at least to manage.

      My guess is that someone on the council has a serious play in copper and aluminum going on or a relative running the local electricians union.

      No – as far as I know they’re just morons. They do shit like this all the time, without rhyme or reason.

      1. Retrofits will be a nightmare. A lot of those older houses probably still have knob and tube.

        1. A lot of those older houses probably still have knob and tube.

          Absolutely they do – seen it with my own eyes. A lot of aluminum wiring, too. And when they’re that old, it’s all behind plaster to boot.

    2. The electric bills will actually be lower – CA has effectively banned all new fossil fuel and nuclear power plants, so Beserkley will go into brownout every evening when people get home from work, turn on the AC, and start trying to cook their dinner with electricity, just when all the solar cells on the west coast go dark.

      The restaurants will also be closed due to no power, so everyone will have to buy food from food trucks or carts, heated with propane, wood, or cow chips. Or sneak into the forests, steal wood, and try to re-learn my religious fanatic grandmother’s skill at cooking over a wood fire.

  16. One word to describe the Berkeley City Council – IDIOTS.

    1. It would be one thing if stupid ideas stayed in Berkeley or SF, but unfortunately as we have seen with straw, plastic bag, and vaping bans, they do not. Other progopolises are eager to copy them, cheered on by an adoring media.

      1. …progopolises…

        Awesome.

  17. I wonder why they did not include commercial buildings? I could not be because there are no regulations controlling the use of electric in the heating and AC in these buildings. Restaurants will have to learn how to cook electric stoves and grills but that should not take very long.
    So why don’t they just block the use of N G in all new construction and in all remodeling?

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