Supporters of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act often speak of making a “just transition” to a decarbonized economy. Now they want to drive up home prices and winter heating costs for moderate- and lower-income New Yorkers. Where’s the justice in that?
The looming cause of this cost increase is the proposed ban on natural gas hookups in new construction. This would require all future homes to be all-electric for heat and appliances. If advocates have their way, the only question is whether the ban will take effect in 2024 or 2027.
Advocates are angry that the state Assembly kept the ban out of the state budget. But that was the right decision, because the budget is not supposed to include policy items, only fiscal ones. The gas hookup ban is an important policy issue that needs to be debated on its own terms. The cost of the ban will hit homeowners, not the state budget.
Advocates of the ban pretend that all new homes will be built with energy-efficient heat pumps and homeowners will see substantial lifetime savings. But all-electric homes in cold climates cost $10,000 to $15,000 more than homes with natural gas heat and appliances, according to the Home Innovation Research Labs. In addition to higher construction costs, the appliances have higher lifetime operating costs.
Even in cases where going all-electric does pay for itself over time, the annual savings are so small that the payback period can take as long as fifty to ninety years, according to the study. In other words, most people will never recoup that upfront cost.
And the high upfront cost of heat pumps will put them beyond the reach of many middle- and lower-income homeowners. To comply with the all-electric requirement and keep home prices affordable, builders may have to install baseboard electric heat. This is cheaper up front but less energy efficient, meaning higher heating costs and increased levels of energy poverty and winter discomfort for average New Yorkers.
Gas ban advocates don’t care. In their single-minded obsession with total decarbonization, they’re willing to toss aside the concerns of moderate- to lower-income people who aspire to ownership of their own warm and comfortable homes.
The gas hookup ban should be rejected by the legislature and by Governor Hochul. Instead, New York’s citizens should be treated like adults who can make their own decisions. The market is the most democratic process of all, where everyone gets to express their values via their own choices. When people truly care about an issue they put their money where their mouth is. And increasingly people do consider environmental impacts in making purchases. We see this in the rising sales of electric cars.
Those New Yorkers who can afford all-electric homes with high-efficiency heat pumps, and who believe in the importance of reducing our use of natural gas are free to act on those beliefs. But they should not force their values on prospective homeowners who cannot yet afford to do so. There’s no justice in that.