Climate plan to clean up building emissions

Millions of Americans still rely on the combustion of gas in their ovens, water heaters, clothes dryers, space heaters, stoves, and ovens, unaware of the pollution they cause indoors and outdoors.

“Many of us primarily run small fossil fuel stations,” said Leah Stokes, a professor of political science at the University of California, Santa Barbara and senior advisor to the climate advocacy group Evergreen Action.

There are more than 200 million of these “mini fossil fuel stations” across the country — all oil and gas heaters, clothes dryers, and stoves, according to Research From rewiring in America. Replacing all of these things is not an easy thing to imagine or do. But a growing number of advocates argue that it is time to try.

During the 1980s and 1990s, both the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency published reports Which raises concerns Around indoor air pollution of gas stoves and heaters. One of the problems causing pollutants was nitrogen dioxide, which can inflame and exacerbate the lungs, but agencies also reported other concerns about ozone and particulates that built up indoors when the devices were used.

All this time after that, none of the agencies have made much progress in working on the science and regulation of these gas appliances at home. But climate experts argue that they still can.

new evergreen business roadmap The engagement with Vox envisions an ambitious transition to clean, gas-free buildings, arguing that President Joe Biden could use the full powers of the federal government and explore the untapped regulatory powers of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy to cut building emissions.

Evergreen argues that more action is needed, because the incentives included in the Inflation Reduction Act to electrify buildings will be far from sufficient to reduce pollution in our short time frame.

If the administration really enacted the steps recommended here, Americans might one day look back and wonder how they could have tolerated burning fossil fuels at home for so long.

No agency is responsible for the impact of gas on air quality

Gas appliances have fallen through the cracks of federal regulations in part because the Environmental Protection Agency sees the Clean Air Act charging it with stewardship of outdoor air. “There is no business equivalent to clean indoor air,” said Jack Link of New York University, co-director of the Institute for Policy Integrity and co-author of a history of EPA law.

No matter where the combustion takes place, natural gas emits a mixture of dangerous emissions, including nitrogen dioxide, nitrogen oxide, particulate matter and carbon monoxide. It is also a contributor to climate change, as a source of carbon dioxide and methane – a greenhouse gas 80 times more powerful than a planet warmer than carbon in the short term.

Outdoors, the Environmental Protection Agency considers these pollutants dangerous to breathe; Scientific evidence shows that they are just as dangerous, if not more so. Gas cooking, for example, can increase the risk of childhood asthma by 42 percent, according to a 2013 meta-analysis Posted in International Journal of Epidemiology.

The science is also clear that what happens inside does not happen in a vacuum. Furnaces and water heaters must emit their emissions directly into the open air, for example (stoves and ovens do not meet such requirements), and this pollution not only disappears. The consequences are exacerbated in communities of color, where homes tend to run on less efficient appliances and communities already bear the burden of greater external particles. One analysis by RMI found that black Americans, too 55 percent More likely to die prematurely from the effects of fossil fuel appliance contamination than white Americans. Another study published in the peer-reviewed journal science progressResidential gas combustion and commercial cooking were found to be the largest drivers of racial disparity in pollution exposure for people of color compared to white people.

Gas appliances have also grown to become The main cause of death of air pollution across states, according to a research paper published in 2020 in the journal Nature. resurrect 425 thousand tons of nitrogen oxide in 2017 alone, nearly three times the amount attributed to gas-fired power plants that year. In another study, Scientists at Stanford Found tubes and valves can leak methane into the air even when the equipment is turned off.

If the source of the pollution is an exhaust pipe or a power plant, the EPA will regulate it. Slowly, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made progress regulating vehicles, power plants, and oil operators. As a result of regulations and market changes, electricity is generally becoming less polluting and is now second only to transportation in its share of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Coal has been shrinking as part of the energy sector ever since peak in 2007, It will shrink further as a result of new spending for the IRA.

As the grid gets cleaner, electrically connected buildings will also have a diminishing footprint, and hopefully use less energy overall with more energy efficient machines. But a gas-powered building will always burn fossil fuels to heat it. Today, this footprint has become quite large: 13 percent From the climate pollution in the country comes directly from these gas burning machines.

There is significant federal investment coming to support electrified buildings through the Inflation Reduction Act, but it is only going so far. Take, for example, the $4.5 billion electricity discount program for low- and middle-income families. “This money will be spent relatively quickly,” Stokes said.

She added that it is far from ideal when “we have to direct all decisions in the economy towards clean buildings”. “Whenever someone has a hot water tank or a furnace that dies, we need the next appliance to be clean, because these appliances can operate for 10 to 30 years. Every decision we make now has the consequence of decades along the line.”

Buildings gain more scrutiny from the Biden administration

The Biden administration has made some limited progress on buildings, mostly through pledges, Executive orderspeaks focused on indoor air quality.

One has been developed so far in energy star, a joint program run by the Environmental Protection Agency and Energy, which helps promote products that reduce energy consumption to consumers. Until this year, the program included gas dryers, furnaces and boilers in its most efficient classes. But the agencies have announced in the foreseeable future that they will Stop Gas categories on the list, where you keep an eye on market changes. The agencies agreed with commentators’ case that the gas technology was far behind Energy Star standards, and the discrimination did not serve the environmentally conscious consumers of the program or Biden’s climate goals.

What will happen next? The Evergreen roadmap indicates that the Biden administration has plenty of undiscovered land to clean up building pollution.

One of the most ambitious proposals suggests that as what happens indoors affects air quality and climate change everywhere, the EPA should finally take action through the Clean Air Act, through a section of the law intended to deal with new sources of pollution. The enactment of rules under this section means that manufacturers have to meet certain performance standards for new devices. It’s a bold move, but not an unprecedented one. The Environmental Protection Agency has already issued standards for wood stoves and heaters, and applies the same section to manufacturers of other consumer products, such as the car.

The Environmental Protection Agency has a form to follow. States have adopted gas appliance emission standards, including Texas, California, New York and Utah. Evergreen suggests that the EPA adopt one of two proposals. One is ambitious project proposal from California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District, which has set a target for zero NOx emissions from appliances. Evergreen recommends that this be a national target no later than 2030, effectively phasing out manufacturers’ sales of these devices.

The clearest drawback to taking advantage of the Clean Air Act is the tedious path to regulation. The EPA has a series of steps to follow in issuing new regulations, and it can take many years to check all the boxes (not to mention work through what follows) judicial appeals).

Despite how long it will take, some climate experts are already keen to put this plan into gear. In August, 27 environmental organizations File a formal petition with the Environmental Protection Agency Calls for devices to be included as a source category under Section 111(b) of the Clean Air Act.

EPA regulation does not prevent the Department of Energy from issuing its own energy efficiency rules, which could be much faster. there 47 Efficiency Standards for Equipment that can be enacted or upgraded by management. These will affect not only gas appliances, but also electrical models such as air source heat pumps. Upgrading all 47 of these standards, according to the American Council on Energy-Saving Economics, would reduce the energy requirements of buildings placed on the grid, saving up to 25 coal plants from carbon pollution by 2050.

None of these regulations will affect existing stoves and ovens. But in the end, it could mean fewer gas appliances on the market and potentially lower the cost of electrical replacement over time. It is also a signal to manufacturers that gas combustion is a technology to be left behind.

There are other approaches the Biden administration could take, among them setting national performance standards for the federal government’s building stock. It’s not a stand-by or an attitude, Stokes said, but an all-government approach required to make real progress on clean buildings. “If we delay it, it won’t be easier to do.” “We need as much time as possible,” she added, to find and replace the millions of small fossil fuel stations inside the home.

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