Direct Use of Natural Gas

APGA members have been and desire to be good stewards of the environment, evidenced by the way they maintain and operate their utilities.  They have long advocated for energy efficiency in their communities, believing public natural gas utilities and the existing pipeline infrastructure should continue to play an integral role in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. They also recognize natural gas can provide energy affordability and reliability to all Americans.

The direct use of natural gas is a key reason for both GHG reduction and consumer affordability.  What does this mean?  On a full-fuel-cycle basis, natural gas appliances are 92% efficient. That is, 92% of the energy produced is delivered and directly consumed by the appliance at the point of use.  Comparatively, electric appliances are only 30% efficient, as there are steps in the supply chain where energy is lost due to conversion or transmission.  Consider the data in the below table to further illustrate.1   Directly using energy in a natural gas furnace produces less GHG emissions and cost less to the consumer.    


Comparison of Residential Space Heating Appliances
1 AGA, “A Comparison of Energy Use, Operating Costs, and Carbon Dioxide Emissions of Home Appliances – 2018 Update,” https://www.aga.org/globalassets/research--insights/reports/ea-2018-02-appliance-cost-and-emissions-comparison-2018-update.pdf.
Despite this data on direct use, there is currently a push for mandatory electrification of homes and businesses, believing this to be the most effective way to lower GHG emissions. APGA would suggest a balanced solution that includes the direct use of natural gas can supply clean energy in an efficient and cost-effective manner. 

Policy Positions

Below are a few more specific APGA positions regarding the natural gas direct use. Please click on the policy position to view its description and details.

A few cities have gone to the extreme of banning natural gas, mostly in new construction. This heavy-handed approach eliminates consumer choice, stifles innovation, and diminishes the flexibility to respond to GHG emissions goals, with the least-cost solutions for consumers. Appliances will have to be replaced, and there is no doubt, electric infrastructure will need to be upgraded. In addition, consumers will be impacted with higher energy bills. All of this with no evidence the environmental impacts are substantial enough to warrant forced fuel switching. APGA hopes any policy development will be considerate of environmental benefits balanced with consumer affordability, and APGA and its members stand ready to work on this type of solution.

The impact to the consumer for electrification policies is staggering. With the removal of natural gas as a fuel option, New Jersey’s “State Energy Master Plan (EMP)” would eliminate more than $11.5 billion saved by households in energy expenses, and nearly $9.7 billion saved by businesses, all without establishing whether this is the least cost and most effective pathway to reduce emissions2. A survey of California families shows it will cost $7,300 to retrofit a home with electric appliances and $387/year more in energy bills, yet the state’s laws lead to that result3. Further, a national study shows families would have to spend, on average $4,847, to replace four common household appliances: range, dryer, water heater, and furnace4. APGA encourages consideration of these dramatic costs when evaluating policies. Energy efficiency gains should not come at undue consumer expense.

[2] Consumer Energy Alliance, “A Steady Stream of Natural Gas Provides Affordable Energy to New Jersey Residents and Helps the Garden State Grow,” https://consumerenergyalliance.org/cms/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/061219_NJ-Energy-Savings-Report_FINAL.pdf.

[3] Navigant Consulting, “Impacts of Residential Appliance Electrification,” https://c4bes.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Navigant-Report-Impacts-of-Residential-Appliance-Electrification.pdf.

[4] Consumer Energy Alliance, “Green New Deal Would Cost American Consumers Almost $244 Billion in Just Four Appliances,” https://consumerenergyalliance.org/2019/02/green-new-deal-would-cost-american-consumers-244-billion-four-appliances/.

Natural gas distribution emissions dropped 73 percent since 1990, while utility companies added more than 760,000 miles of pipeline to get energy to an additional 20 million customers5. This is a testament to APGA members’ tireless work to safely provide clean-burning natural gas to state-of-the-art appliances, lowering emissions regionally and nationally. Every sector must do their part to reduce GHG emissions. Natural gas utilities and their customers are leading the way. With the right legislation, regulatory framework, and support from the federal government, these endeavors will continue.

5 AGA, “Understanding Updates to the EPA Inventory of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Natural Gas Systems.” https://www.aga.org/contentassets/f4227be971f545bf8a869234d7220526/ea-2019-02-updating-the-facts-of-ghg-inventory-003.pdf.

The direct use of natural gas promotes and supports a more robust and resilient energy system. A recent report asserts that, “The operational characteristics of the natural gas transportation network, in combination with the physical properties of natural gas, effectively minimize the likelihood and severity of service disruptions. In the rare event of a disruption, impacts are typically localized and brief. History demonstrates that disruption of firm pipeline transportation and/or storage services resulting from severe weather events are extremely rare.”6 This resilience stands contrary to other energy sources used for appliances and equipment in homes and businesses. As an example, above-ground infrastructure makes electric utilities susceptible to natural events, such as wind storms. In California, damaged power lines have caused wildfires, resulting in major utility companies shutting down electricity as a precaution to the threats from nature. Rather than putting “all eggs in one basket” through electrification, there should be a balanced energy approach to achieve comprehensive reliability.

6 Natural Gas Council, “Natural Gas: Reliable and Resilient,” http://naturalgascouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Natural-Gas-Reliable-and-Resilient.pdf.

Allowing consumers to have a fuel choice for their appliances shouldn’t be overlooked in policymaking. Data shows that Americans prefer natural gas for cooking and space and water heating. Less than 10% of California residents would choose an all-electric home, and 80% oppose prohibiting the use of gas appliances.7 Another study indicates that the preferred energy source is natural gas for home heating, water heating, and cooking.8 As the Committee contemplates legislative options to reduce GHG emissions, APGA encourages the Committee not to pick a single solution but instead allow for maximum flexibility in meeting environmental goals with low costs.

7 California Building Industries Association, “California Natural Gas Poll - Consumer Survey of 3000 California Voters.”

8Woodland, O’Brien, and Scott, “New Homeowner Energy Preference Survey Closings March 2015 through February 2016.”