Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Montgomery County Council natural gas ban already impacting real estate market

The recent floating of a ban on gas stoves by federal regulators caused an uproar nationwide, but the Montgomery County Council's 2022 actual ban on natural gas energy in future home and building construction is already making waves in the county's real estate market. In recent weeks, some for-sale signs in front of Montgomery County homes have added a new shingle underneath: "Natural Gas AVAILABLE." 

County homeowners fortunate to have a natural gas hookup, and the advantages and alternatives it provides, may now see a bump in their home values. Buyers dreaming of a true "chef's kitchen," showers that don't run cold just because the power is out, or a generator to keep everything on when electric power does go out, will have a static inventory of older properties to choose from.

Montgomery County's natural gas ban was an instructive moment in more ways than one. Of course, it reminds us all of how much the Council enjoys banning things. It's a cheap way to make news, look busy, and not have to spend much money in the process. All the costs fall on businesses and residents. 

Perhaps even more intriguing is the revelation of how County environmental policy often has less to do with actual impact on climate change (though those melting paper straws do add a unique new flavor to our beverages), and more to do with accomplishing hidden or corrupt goals, payoffs, power grabs and other short-term gains. Such is the epic tale of the rise and fall of natural gas in Montgomery County's "green" policy.

It wasn't that long ago that we were told natural gas was "clean energy." This just happened to coincide with fracking mania, which created whole boom towns in often-remote parts of America for a time. Brown drinking water and earthquakes? Merely minor side-effects of "clean energy."

Montgomery County's elected officials and local environmental advocates were all-in on natural gas at that time, as well.

Way back in 1996, Montgomery County purchased its first compressed natural gas Ride On buses. Montgomery County Council staff regularly have referred to these CNG buses as "clean bus technology."

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan touted the purchase of 19 more natural gas-powered Ride On buses in 2000, through a multi-agency agreement that included the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG). "Through this agreement, we're helping to reduce traffic congestion and prevent pollution," Duncan said at the time. "The support of The Clean Alternative program has made it easier for the County to purchase low emission vehicles that reduce air pollution while lowering our fuel and maintenance costs."

Maryland Transportation Secretary John Porcari said that the purchase of these natural gas Ride On buses would "improve air quality and enhance the quality of life" of residents. Then-MWCOG Executive Director Michael Rogers said CNG Ride On buses were an "emerging strategy for improving air quality."

Sue Edwards of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission wrote that the CNG Ride On buses used natural gas as a "clean burning fuel." CNG was "a mechanism to meet air quality objectives," she stated. 

The most interesting endorsement of natural gas-powered Ride On buses came from Elliott Negin of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Montgomery County is showing the way for our region," Negin was quoted as saying in the press release announcing the natural gas bus purchase.

Two years later, Negin and the NRDC were even more enthused about natural gas. WMATA had announced the purchase of 250 new natural gas CNG buses for the Metrobus fleet.  "This is a great Earth Day present for the nation's capital, Maryland and Virginia," Negin said in a joint press release with the Sierra Club(!!). "Expanding Metro's natural gas program and retiring its polluting diesel buses is clearly the best choice for our public health and environment. It also is the best choice for strengthening U.S. energy security, since we get nearly all of our natural gas from North America, and more than half of the oil we consume is imported."

After reading that, you might wonder if Negin's article in Greater Greater Washington last month was written by an imposter. 

"WMATA’s fleet is currently made up of diesel and compressed natural gas (CNG) buses, which essentially run on methane, a potent global warming gas," Negin and co-authors Steve Banashek and Timothy Oberleiton wrote on December 7, 2022. "Diesel tailpipe emissions have been linked to cancer and heart disease, as well as premature death. CNG bus emissions have been linked to cardiovascular and neurological diseases." Well, so much for enhancing the quality of life!

"Emissions from both fuels cause smog, which exacerbates allergies and such lung conditions as emphysema, bronchitis and asthma, a major problem in the District," Negin, et al continued. "Both types of fuel also pose a threat to the climate. In the greater Washington region, cars, trucks, buses, and other mobile sources account for a whopping 40% of annual global warming pollution. [CNG buses] spew toxic pollution. Their lifecycle global warming emissions, meanwhile, are on average only 6.4 percent lower than that of a diesel bus and, in many circumstances, are nearly the same due to widespread methane leaks and relatively poor fuel economy."

What a difference 20 years makes! Yet all of the properties of natural gas were known to scientists 20 years ago, when Negin, Montgomery County officials and countless other once-ardent promoters of natural gas were demanding Americans switch to that "clean energy" alternative. What's going on here?

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commissioner Richard Trumka attempted to backpedal on his gas stove ban musings last month, after everyone from annoyed chefs to political opponents of the Biden administration ran wild with the issue. Days later, Trumka quietly doubled down on his personal opposition to gas stoves in the back pages of The Washington Post

Looking at Montgomery County environmental "policy" this century, we have to ask, what will his position be twenty years from now?


  1. There will be changes, there are always folks that will complain about the changes. It doesn't matter if it effects them or not or makes things better for the common good

  2. So this blog was never truly just about local news and goings-on but really? An obviously biased opinion piece? There's a difference between reporting on local politics and 'Gotcha!' journalism.

    1. 9:27: Is there any statement in the article that is false?

  3. This is terrible. The price of electricity will go through the roof. We will have brown-outs because the power grid cannot handle it. The power grid mostly run by fossil fuels.

    1. The last time I checked gas was also fossil fuel.

  4. "What a difference 20 years makes!"

    Indeed, it's called progress. Some people are trying to stave off the worst of global warming. Others cry into the void about imaginary brownouts.

  5. This is some of the dumbest writing in awhile. Your gas heaters still need electricity to function as do many stoves with electric igniters. And a gas furnace needs an electric fan system to work. Its funny that you are mad that they are banning gas but also mad that fracking causes brown water and environmental damage? Is gas good or bad here?

    I know you are conservative but could you at least be consistent in the messaging? You’re almost as bad as the Montgomery County council!

    Also DUH burning fuel without adequate ventilation is not good for your health. Your furnace and water heater vent exhaust up the chimney. Burning wood or gas in a fireplace goes up the chimney. Why are most gas stoves venting exhaust (if they have it) back into the house? I’m already going to switch to induction as I found I got headaches when the oven was on for a long time, got a CO2 monitor and saw my house was getting up to 2000 ppm of carbon dioxide in the house with the stove/oven on. Only 600 ppm with it off. Maybe all this outrage and anger is because the fumes are affecting everyone’s brains?

  6. The shiny object attracts the liberal idiots attention. Fools all you are: The entire electronic economy relies on semiconductor chips and precious metals the Chinese government has made substantial inroads into controlling in the underdeveloped world. Staying myopically reliant with the climate mantra and disinvestment in readily v available natural energy sources is the exemplar of sheepish, slavish worship of one doctrine worldviews. Whilst the Chinese and other polluters do as they please. The lack of serious critical thinking skills is our biggest challenge and it’s evident in abundance in this sinking ship of a once thriving County. When you elect a ballot full of losers, spearheaded by a CE who doesn’t dress or comport himself in a manner fitting to run an ice cream stand…

    1. Well said. Also notice that Ride on buses use natural gas still as the exhaust pipe at the left upper roof indicate, the decals which touted the “runs on clean natural gas “ is gone. Lol . National political ideology of the demented Biden and Obama hold overs have infected local and state governments like a cancer .

  7. who are these county council about some names. They are idiots....I don't want to go back to electric electric bill is high enough as it is. The rates are thru the roof already. What does pepco get out of these changes in getting rid of gas? It's so nice not to have to smell those buses.

  8. It's too bad Robert Dyer didn't bother to call me before he jumped to his incorrect conclusions. Twenty years ago, the Energy Department and others were touting compressed natural buses over diesel buses. It wasn't until at least a decade later that scientists began finding out that widespread methane leaks undercut any advantage that CNG has over diesel when it comes to carbon pollution. (CNG buses do emit significantly less nitrogen oxides and some other toxic pollutants than diesel buses.) Electric buses were not available 20 or even 10 years ago, but they are now, and they are much preferable to both diesel and CNG buses. That's why my coalition is promoting them.

    Contrary to Mr. Dyer's assertion, scientists were not aware of the methane leak problem 20 years ago and CNG buses were no doubt preferable to diesel buses at the time when it came to NOx and some other pollutants. Today, electric buses, which have no tailpipe, are preferable to both CNG and diesel buses.

    Next time, if Mr. Dyer is interested in the facts, he should contact me before he prints an opinion piece based on a false premise.

    Elliott Negin