Congress feuded over a mere suggestion last week that gas-powered stovetops could be banned in the United States, but the city of San Diego has already committed itself to gutting almost all buildings of gas-powered everything — stoves included.
The dispute in the capital erupted after a new study linked the methane-powered devices to 13 percent of childhood asthma cases nationwide. The Biden Administration isn’t actually proposing a ban, as Politico reported, but the mention of a hypothetical one by a member of the Consumer Product Safety Commission sparked swift backlash from Republicans and a wave of media coverage over whether it was time to retire the natural gas-powered stovetops of America.
San Diego, by way of Mayor Todd Gloria’s update to the city’s Climate Action Plan, passed in 2022, is already committed to retiring them. That plan’s goal is to eliminate almost all natural gas use from buildings in the city by 2035. It includes not only buildings that have yet to be built, but calls for retrofitting apartments, restaurants and skyscrapers to run solely on electricity.
Such retrofits are costly, and the city’s plan sets a dramatic target: phase-out gas from 45 percent of existing buildings by 2030 and then 90 percent by 2035. Once achieved, that’s equivalent to cutting 1.9 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses generated in the city per year. San Diego’s director of sustainability and mobility said in November 2021 the city plans to make this huge electrification jump by approving new building codes.
This so-called decarbonizing of buildings is a key component of the city’s wider goal of cutting nearly half of all its emissions by 2035.
Cutting fossil fuels out of homes means replacing gas stoves with electric-powered induction stovetops and swapping out gas-powered water heaters for electric heat pumps to do both heating and cooling. But the city has yet to pass specific policies directing private homes and businesses on how to achieve such retrofits. First, San Diego is looking at how it will retrofit public buildings under a Municipal Energy Strategy.
But gas to electric conversion also renders useless some natural gas pipeline infrastructure and jobs needed to maintain it, a point local unions challenged the city to backfill with transitionary work or risk losing union support on the city’s most important element of their climate change-fighting target.