We can all agree that the United States is far too dependent on foreign oil. Now Arizona’s leaders in both parties – public and private sector leaders too – need to take urgent action to mitigate our reliance on dirty foreign energy supplies. They need to lead Arizona’s transition to clean energy sources.
Our dependence on oil from repressive regimes like Saudi Arabia and Venezuela is a grave threat to our national security. Our NATO allies’ dependence on Russian oil gave Vladimir Putin the leverage to invade Ukraine earlier this year with, initially, very little resistance. That hurts everyday people and impacts gas prices across the globe, including right here in Arizona.
A decade ago, the solution might have been to expand domestic oil production. Nowadays, we can cut our reliance on foreign oil and reduce carbon emissions by electrifying everyday household items that run on fossil fuels. Modern electric appliances and cars have come so far that, in most cases, they’re better than their fossil-fuel counterparts. They meet the needs of everyday Americans while reducing air pollution.
Despite these clean energy advancements for day-to-day household appliances, Southwest Gas just asked the Arizona Corporation Commission for permission to charge consumers 7.6% more on their gas bills. Instead of raising rates to pay for new gas lines, we need to invest in expanding our clean energy infrastructure.
Consider the gas stove. For decades, gas companies have spent millions of dollars on propaganda campaigns to make Americans believe that gas stoves are faster, cleaner, and more efficient than electric stoves. Yet, recent studies have found that gas stoves constantly leak harmful pollutants, like carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide, even when not in use. Children living in homes with gas stoves have a 42% increased risk of asthma. Gas furnaces aren’t much better: like gas stoves, they also emit harmful pollutants like carbon monoxide, burn dirty fossil fuels and reduce air quality in homes.
Homeowners can easily replace both gas appliances with electric counterparts that are cleaner, safer, more efficient, and – you guessed it – better at the job. An induction cooktop uses electromagnets to heat cookware incredibly fast. It uses less energy, can more precisely control temperatures, and doesn’t emit harmful, asthma-causing pollutants that gas stoves create. The only issues are the cost: they’re more expensive to buy outright, and some users might need to purchase unique, induction-ready cookware.
Thanks to Arizona’s U.S Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema voting for the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, more Arizona households and businesses will soon have additional resources available to help reduce their energy bills by making homes more energy efficient through programs such as the Low-Income Household Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the Weatherization Assistance Program, and the HOMES Rebate program.
In Arizona, the largest source of electric energy comes from methane, aka “natural” gas. Widespread building electrification alone won’t eliminate Arizona’s reliance on harmful, expensive fossil fuels. Nonetheless, electrification of our daily lives is one meaningful step we can all take towards clean and renewable energy independence. It will also mitigate the risks of gas pipe explosions like the one we saw in Chandler last year.
Arizona policymakers should get behind programs like those included in the IIJA and IRA to encourage Arizona households and businesses to replace old, dirty fossil-fuel appliances with clean, energy-efficient electric ones. And the Arizona Corporation Commission should reject the Southwest Gas rate increase. We can’t continue our dependence on foreign oil from repressive regimes. We’re playing with fire if we keep cooking with gas – literally and as it relates to our national security.
Joe Knott retired from the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel and now leads the Compatible Lands Foundation as its executive director. In partnership with military installations across the country, the Compatible Lands Foundation promotes the conservation, restoration, and preservation of land and natural resources. He lives in Queen Creek. You can reach him at j[email protected].