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War on fossil fuels continues, despite surging natural gas demand

“A national ban would be disruptive to the 37% of households using gas stoves and to the 76% of restaurants that rely on them.”

Newton B. Jones, International President

As climate zealots and their political allies continue to push a ban on fossil fuel energy, the cold reality is that people still need that energy to survive and to thrive.

Recently, talk of an outright ban on gas stoves by some in the U.S. federal government made headlines—although the notion was quickly walked back by administration officials.

Still, the very idea that the government would contemplate such an extreme measure has raised alarms. A national ban would be disruptive to the 37% of households using gas stoves and to the 76% of restaurants that rely on them.

Gas stove manufacturers and the broader appliance and gas industries—which employ Boilermakers—would face potential upheaval. Yet, such concerns haven't stopped the push for gas stove bans in some cities and states.

According to the New York Times, in 2019 Berkeley, California, became the first city in the nation to ban gas hookups in new homes and commercial buildings. Some 50 other California cities, among them Los Angeles and San Francisco, have since adopted similar restrictions.

New York City followed suit in 2021. Beginning in 2024, gas stoves, water heaters, furnaces and other appliances will be prohibited in new buildings. Meanwhile, state-wide restrictions are being proposed by New York Governor Kathy Hochul.

While these changes play out, global use of natural gas—for electricity production as well as for cooking, heating and other uses—is surging, and suppliers are beefing up their export facilities.

In Kitimat, British Columbia, Boilermakers from Local 359 (Vancouver) and other Canadian lodges are helping to bring in a $40 billion liquified natural gas (LNG) terminal. The massive project will enable Canada to market LNG to Asian markets, many of which are switching from coal to lower emission natural gas.

Along the U.S. Gulf Coast, 16 new LNG projects are in planning or development stages. They will help America become the world leader in LNG exports by the end of this year, according to research firm Wood Mackenzie. The firm estimates that over the next decade, about $100 billion will be spent on Gulf Coast LNG projects. Much of that new LNG capacity will help offset gas shortages in Europe resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Europe’s subsequent disengagement from the Russian gas industry.

While such investments increase energy security at home and abroad, they are often met by obstructionists. Climate zealots who oppose any continuing fossil fuel use, along with sympathetic regulators, can hold up projects for years, blocking essential resources from reaching markets and people who may be struggling with energy, heating and other needs.

Canceled LNG projects such as Jordan Cove in Oregon are among the casualties. The $8 billion project would have piped natural gas to a terminal on Coos Bay, where it would have been super-cooled into liquid form and loaded onto ships for export. Hundreds of construction jobs would have been created.

Meanwhile other major U.S. gas and oil pipeline projects have been shuttered, among them the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline. In Canada, proposed projects to build the nation’s second and third LNG terminals (Woodfibre LNG and Cedar LNG) appear to be victims of governmental foot dragging.

The opportunity to help Asian nations convert from coal to cleaner-burning natural gas makes sense from a climate mitigation perspective. China is the world’s larget LNG importer. The country is also the largest emitter of CO2, and it continues to build the equivalent of two large coal plants per week.

Replacing China’s vast coal-fired energy fleet with natural gas systems would go a long way toward bending the curve on global CO2 emissions. Those emissions reached an all-time high in 2022, according to the International Energy Agency, despite the $1.1 trillion spent last year on renewables and related “green” projects (BloombergNEF).

Until newer energy sources like hydrogen can safely and economically be brought to market, the intelligent use of fossil fuels—with broader applications of carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) technologies—remains our best path forward.

In the meantime, North American LNG terminals must continue to play a vital role in moving gas to nations that rely on gas imports for their economic survival and security. And domestic use of natural gas must not be restricted by regulatory fiat.

For most of the world, life without gas—and gas stoves—is likely still decades away.