Will the Bay State Lead or Lag?

In a must-read  NPR story about California’s efforts to implement a gradual phaseout of fracked gas, reporter Lauren Sommer outlines the creative and courageous ways that local and state governments can encourage the transformation that must occur – and soon – in order to preserve the nation’s health economy and quality of life. Sommer writes that “California has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2045, and about a quarter of the state's emissions come from energy used by buildings. To reach its ambitious climate change goals, the state will eventually have to force — or entice — homeowners to electrify everything.”

That’s a key point that policymakers in Massachusetts need to understand. Thankfully, a lot of them already do, especially in the legislature, but the NPR story also lists specific initiatives that local and state governments can take to end fossil-fuel emissions:

  • Starting next year, Berkeley will become the first city in the country to ban the use of fracked gas in new buildings.

  • The City of Sacramento is developing financial incentives to encourage residential and business customers to switch from gas to electric.

  • The California Energy Commission has announced a forthcoming “road map” that sets a goal of cutting carbon emissions from buildingsby 40 percent by 2030. (Sommer notes that, “Buildings, through heating and cooking, use almost a third of the natural gas consumed in the U.S.”)

The math here is inescapable.  As Andrew McCallister of the California Energy Commission observes in the NPR story, "We know that we have to get away from fossil natural gas combustion. Electricity becomes cleaner and cleaner and natural gas is methane, and it's just got carbon in it. There's no way around that.” 

So, the question for Massachusetts is this: As other states make the necessary transition from the old fossil-fuel-based system to a newer model, will our commonwealth be a leader or a follower? Will we embrace some of the same approaches that are now emerging in states like California? Will we trudge along behind? Or, even worse, will we reverse course and expand our use of fracked gas – in the face of the mounting evidence of how costly, unsafe and destructive that action would be? 

There’s no reason why Massachusetts can’t be a national leader in the transition away from fracked gas. All it takes is the recognition by our elected officials and business leaders that the only way we can reach the emissions goals we have already set is to halt the expansion of gas infrastructure and start a gradual but steady phaseout of fracked gas.