Las Vegas Sun

December 9, 2021

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GUEST COLUMN:

Natural gas ban would hurt Nevada families and businesses

At the Latin Chamber of Commerce, we work to promote the success of Hispanic-owned businesses by facilitating positive business, cultural and educational relationships. We cultivate meaningful economic development and advocate for balanced public policy that works to help not only our business owners but also our Hispanic community at large.

Our members are the backbone of our economy, and that is why we are deeply concerned by a recent proposed legislative measure that will effectively eliminate direct residential and business use of natural gas. This will harm those who can afford it the least while failing to achieve its promised environmental objectives.

Our state has gone from record-low unemployment to record highs over the past year. Reputable and trusted businesses and thousands of minority workers who have been part of our community for years are struggling to pay their monthly bills to survive. There is growing fear that this pandemic may have lasting effects on our economy and working families for years to come, and this ill-conceived legislation will only make matters worse. 

Now is the time for a renewed effort to get our economy back on track. That is why we can’t afford risky actions that will make our economy and the burden to businesses and families even worse.

Natural gas is the energy choice for many Nevadans and is often the lowest utility bill a family pays. In this economy, every single dollar matters. Forcing abuelo and abuela to make a choice between medicine and groceries or heating their home affordably in the winter is unacceptable. Having employers decide between hiring a new worker, investing in their business or keeping up with escalating utility bills is not the healthy path to an economic recovery.

It’s been reported that a family using natural gas to cook, take hot showers, or heat their home pays $879 less per year than a family who use electricity to do the same things. This proposed legislation will remove the choice of using the most cost-effective energy from hard-working Hispanic businesses and families. Pushing electrification is essentially eliminating one of Nevadans’ lowest energy bills and replacing it with one of our highest. What’s more, forcing businesses and families to purchase costly new appliances and retrofit homes’ or business’ heating and electrical systems will inequitably affect communities of color. Can our community, many on reduced or fixed incomes, realistically afford to replace their perfectly good gas stovetop, water heater or furnace they depend on?

Natural gas is an essential, clean and affordable energy source that produces 70% of Nevada’s electricity. And it’s this same energy source that has helped our state significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution over the past few decades. It’s hard to justify that this clean and efficient energy source, which did so much good for our state, is now single-handedly responsible for our state’s greenhouse gas emissions today. Research from the Environmental Protection Agency even shows that the largest emitter of greenhouse gas comes from vehicles, not buildings with natural gas (homes only contribute 4.4% of greenhouse gas emitted in Nevada). Further, gas companies are introducing renewable natural gas and hydrogen into their systems to lower their already-low carbon footprint. These technologies, which use existing gas pipelines installed underground, should be part of Nevada’s roadmap to decarbonization.

This legislation would induce higher costs for businesses and families, do little to nothing to address our environmental concerns and serve as another devastating blow to our already-fragile economy — the natural gas proposal carries too many unintended risks that could break many businesses.

While we all seek solutions for environmental challenges, this is not one of them. We need a responsible, reasonable and holistic approach to achieve a clean energy future for Nevada — not a rash action or the one-dimensional solution proposed in this legislation.

I look forward to having our voices heard and joining leaders at the table to develop inclusive and equitable energy solutions going forward.

Peter Guzman is president of the Latin Chamber of Commerce.