To add insult to injury, the bureaucrats are banning gas furnaces in a roundabout way that allows the politicians to claim nobody is banning anything — and you can count on media allies and fact-checkers to scold you if you point out that their ban is a ban.
Gas stoves and furnaces are enduring the same exact fate that incandescent bulbs did and the gasoline-powered cars will: death by the non-ban ban.
The story line is becoming familiar to anyone who makes something deemed an enemy of the planet: The government subsidizes your competition as cutting-edge green technology (while ignoring the environmental downsides of this new tech), then politicians will float an outright ban, and finally, bureaucrats will instead impose regulations that are crafted explicitly to ban your product through new mandatory “standards” that pretend not to be a ban.
Washington has a State Building Code Council, which is an unelected body that basically has legislative power. In 2022, the SBCC voted to require that all new houses and apartments get their heat and cooling from electric heat pumps.
Heat pumps use less electricity than older electric furnaces, and their high energy efficiency makes them less greenhouse-gas-intensive. But some industry consultants argue that the chemicals coursing through these machines (hydrofluorocarbon gases) wipe out these advantages, climate-wise.
Furthermore, switching residents’ heating from natural gas to electricity while we are also forcibly switching their driving and yard work from gasoline to electricity places strain on the electric grid, which on the Pacific Coast does not have the best reputation.
A similar mandate in Berkeley, California, was struck down by a federal court earlier this year, and so Washington’s SBCC altered its approach.
The Seattle Times reported last week: “Under building code amendments adopted Tuesday, builders would need to match the energy efficiency of heat pumps in order to install gas in new commercial and residential buildings. … The codes will require new homes and buildings to meet the same total energy performance as those built with electric heat pumps while allowing builders flexibility to choose appliances. Basically, if builders choose gas appliances, they will need to make up the efficiency losses elsewhere in the construction.”
Because the new rules do not literally ban gas furnaces, you can expect that fact-checkers (and maybe the disinformation police) will slap you on the wrist when you call this a ban on gas furnaces. But the intention is clearly to ban gas furnaces, as is the effect.