Morgan Edwards, Assistant Professor of Climate Policy
April 6 @ 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm
Evaluating technologies and policies to reduce natural gas emissions in U.S. cities
5013 Vilas and on Zoom
A rapid and just transition away from unabated fossil fuel use is essential to addressing the scale of the climate crisis. However, approximately half of homes in the U.S. currently rely on natural gas for heat. Natural gas is primarily methane (CH4). It emits carbon dioxide (CO2) when it is burned in home appliances such as furnaces and stoves and is a potent greenhouse gas when it leaks directly into the atmosphere. Policies to address methane emissions in cities focus on reducing CH4 emissions in natural gas distribution pipelines and electrifying home heating needs. How effective and equitable are current policies targeting these emissions, and how can state and local policymakers best support just transitions in home heating technologies?
Here we address these questions with a focus on Massachusetts and extensions to other states. Our analysis leverages statewide utility, housing, and demographic data, community science, stakeholder interviews, and document and legal analysis. First, we evaluate the effectiveness of state policies to repair leaks in natural gas distribution pipelines. Second, we assess the implications of state policies to accelerate replacement of leak-prone pipelines and discuss potential incompatibilities with new state equity criteria. Third, we evaluate inequities in adoption rates for heat pumps and discuss potential solutions to address these inequities. By combining multiple lines of evidence, this work triangulates insights for science-based policies at the intersection of home energy use and natural gas distribution emissions.