By Hoai-An Truong
For those of us who support Indigenous peoples in their crusade against fossil fuel industries and for climate activists, switching away from natural gas helps us move away from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy.
The City of Santa Rosa and its residents will be working on the post-fire rebuild for years to come. Members of the Sonoma County Climate Activist Network (a network of over 25 local climate action organizations including our group, Sonoma Solidarity with Standing Rock) are promoting a green, sustainable, fire resilient rebuild. As part of our commitment, we are campaigning to mandate “all-electric ready” construction for all new buildings in Santa Rosa. This promotes clean energy usage over natural gas, which is a fossil fuel. We are extremely fortunate in this county to be able to get our energy from community solar: Sonoma Clean Power. Switching to all-electric ready construction will also help our residents decrease utility bills over time as solar and battery technology improves, and production costs go down.
Natural gas comes with high environmental costs: extraction via fracking devastates the environment and local communities. Fracking is a huge contributor to climate change. Methane (CH4) is the main component of natural gas (around 85%) and methane is a major greenhouse gas (GHG). Over a time scale of 20 years, methane has a global warming potential over 100 times greater than that of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas.
In the last few years the scientific community has come to realize that the production of natural gas results in massive amounts of “fugitive emissions,” or unintended leakage of natural gas into the atmosphere. And it is an increasingly expensive process. Those costs - HIGH environmental costs as well as financial - are passed on to us: the consumers.
For those of us who love to cook and even those who don't, we prefer cooking on a gas stove. Most of us have had terrible experiences cooking with electric stoves. Parting with a gas stove might appear to be the hardest part of the transition. However electric stovetop technology has evolved tremendously.
An induction stovetop burner can now be as responsive or even more responsive than a gas burner. Induction stovetops heat faster, and are very fast to turn down the temperature, like a gas burner. An induction stovetop can be more easily, evenly and precisely controlled than a gas burner which is prone to hot spots and uneven heating. They have a smaller carbon footprint.
An induction stovetop is also dramatically safer particularly if you have toddlers or young children, and even if you have elderly parents who might be succumbing to a failing memory or even Alzheimer's. It will keep your loved ones safer.
Note that the cost of natural gas will go up over time due to expensive extraction costs, but the cost of renewable energy will keep going down. Going all-electric ensures your costs will go down with time. It is a great choice financially -- especially for those approaching or in retirement, when many of us will be living on fixed incomes.
Please support the mandate for all-electric construction for all future construction in Santa Rosa. It's best for the climate and our future.
Here are two videos on the advantages of an induction cooktop vs a gas cooktop - and both are surprisingly fun to watch. The first video also shows you don't have to buy a whole new cooktop. You can buy a portable induction burner for around $70, and test it out for yourself.
Are induction cooktops better than gas? by Dean Sharp - The House Whisperer
It's not just mobile phone technology that has evolved. Not only has stovetop technology vastly improved, oven technology has also come a long way. The following video compares convection ovens vs. conventional ovens. Convection ovens bake faster and are more energy efficient. Note: this video is from 2015. The price of convection ovens, particularly countertop versions, have dropped considerably. You can even buy a combination countertop microwave and convection oven as a very affordable option to replacing your full-size oven. Microwave ovens are great at heating but not at browning or baking. A convection oven allows the food to bake faster and to brown. A convection oven browns more evenly than a conventional oven, reducing or even eliminating the need for basting. Faster, less work - and saves energy.
Here's a good article by Bob's Red Mill. "We definitely recommend using a conventional oven for any recipes that require rising, as you do not want to cook the outside before the inside is finished leavening. The convection can also dry out the inside of these recipes, such as bread, cake, soufflé, flan, etc., so you want to steer clear of that setting if you want your final product to be nice and moist."
Fortunately, you can look for a convection oven that has the ability to turn off the fan, so it behaves like a conventional oven.
Bob's Red Mill: Convection Oven vs. Regular Oven
Something else to consider: when a natural disaster strikes, such as another fire or if the Big One hits (the next big earthquake), electricity is restored more quickly than gas (which could take up to 2-3 weeks to repair).
Scientists say we have until 2020 to make a huge shift to reduce and reverse climate change. Vote with your wallet, make your voice heard at city council meetings, email city council. Choose a sustainable future. For all of us!