In both cases, the unelected members of the California Air Resources Board are making decisions that kill consumer choice.
CARB’s unanimous Sept. 22 vote phases out sales of natural gas and water heaters by 2030, pending a final board approval in 2025 of the rules that are to be developed. This doesn’t mean that Californians will have to suddenly replace their gas appliances with electric versions. But when their gas equipment goes bad, they will have no choice but to buy electric units, which are typically more expensive. Of course all furnaces and water heaters in newly constructed homes and buildings will have to be electric.
Despite the financial assistance from government bribes, from rebates and other incentives, Californians will be hit in the wallet, not just due to the higher prices charged for electric appliances. In many cases, electrical systems will have to be upgraded because, reports Greentech Media, “homes that are fully electrified – heat pump HVAC, heat pump water heater, electric stove/oven, electric dryer, solar, storage, EV – cannot get by on smaller 100-amp or 125-amp electric services.”
Costs could range from $5,000 for a simple upgrade of the electrical service that feeds the house, “to well over $20,000 if underground wiring or transformers need to be updated.”
But what if, once needed renovations are completed, there are no electric furnaces or water heaters to buy? Carl DeMaio, a former San Diego City Council member, who says upgrade costs could reach as much as $26,000 per home, expects that the supply chain for electric appliance alternatives will be broken by “massive shortages” caused by a demand increased through government mandate.
Even if manufacturers manage to keep up and the appliances eventually reach consumers, there are no guarantees they’ll work once plugged in. Given that California is forcing (higher price tag) EVs on residents – regulators have ordered that 68% of all new car sales in 2030, the year the gas furnace and gas water heater ban goes into effect, must be EVs – and at the same time is rushing an energy transition from reliable fossil-fuel sources to sketchy renewables, it’s not a given that power will always be at consumers’ fingertips.
Electricity and electrical appliances might not be all that’s in short supply in California’s increasingly iffy future. One of the unintended but predictable consequences of CARB’s proposed diesel ban will be a loss of truckers. Both companies and independent contractors will find, as so many others have, that doing business in California is too much of a regulatory headache. They will leave the state or simply leave the industry altogether.
Not all will move on. But the truckers who remain will be spending hours charging their batteries – if they can find a charger, since the infrastructure they need “is basically non-existent” and will have to be built at the rate of “more than 300 chargers a week” – rather than filling their tanks with diesel fuel in minutes. They also will have to stop more often due to electric motors’ shorter ranges.
And now we’ve circled back to supply chain problems, which seem to have become structural rather than transient and reparable, thanks to misguided public policy.
Maybe using oxcarts to deliver goods is the answer in a state where policymakers are determined to reverse progress. But then California would probably ban them, too. Oxen give off methane, a gas the state has already declared to be unacceptable.
Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.