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Fossil fuel debates

What am I missing?

At a recent meeting of Town Council, Council passed a resolution that forbids a proposed subdivision of 20 single family homes from using natural gas as their primary heating source. In fact they have banned the use of any “fossil fuel” as their primary heating source. Now these homes will have to rely on either geothermic heat, electric heat, or most likely electric heat pumps. By doing this, Council is forcing people to go “green” if they want to or not by taking away their options. It appears that in their rush to go “green” they haven’t thought this issue through. If Council wants to eliminate the production of green house gases from these homes, they could be very wrong. What appears to be a good and noble idea, could actually backfire, and cause an increase in green house gases.

Let’s look at this idea of forcing people away from natural fired gas furnaces in more depth. Not all of BC’s electrical power is produced from clean hydro. In fact BC presently imports electrical power from theUSandAlbertain order to meet our domestic needs. Power imported fromAlbertais produced from coal fired and natural gas fired generating plants, which are not the most environmentally friendly sources. The most efficient coal fire generating plants are about 40% efficient while natural gas fired plant s only operate at about 60% efficiency. Therefore the power produced and shipped to us here from these plants generate lots of greenhouse gases as a by product of their electrical production.

 It appears logical to me that electric power generated inAlbertaand transmitted to supply power to operate the heat pumps or baseboard heaters for these homes would in fact generate more green house gases than if Council allowed these homes to be heated  from  natural gas furnaces  that operate at 97% efficiency..If Council would allow the use of natural gas furnaces we would produce about half as much greenhouse gases rather than importing power for running electrical heating systems or heat pumps.

If you live next door to a home that has a heat pump you are likely aware that they can be noisy if they not well maintained. The homes in this subdivision will be built in a relatively small area, with homes clustered to maximize the amount of common open space. Therefore noise could become an issue. Imagine the potential for noise if all heat pumps are operating as air conditioners during the summer when residents wish to be outside to enjoy their backyards.

The Town says that we need more “affordable housing” in our community. How does forcing developers to install heating systems that are more expensive than a natural gas heating system aid in achieving the goal of making more homes affordable? An average heat pump system costs twice as much to purchase and install over the purchase and installation of a gas furnace. Additionally, homes with heat pumps have to have an auxiliary heating system, at an additional cost, as heat pumps do not operate efficiently in all weather conditions. The Town will allow home owners to have a natural gas fireplace, a gas range, and a gas fired hot water heating system their homes, while banning a natural gas furnace. Does that make sense?

As I said at the start, what am I missing? It seems to me that the idea of banning the use a “clean” abundant fuel such as natural gas to heat their homes, but forcing them to us a more expensive and less environmental heating system makes no sense to me.

At least that’s as I see it…

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About the author: Angie