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The mood was electric at Brookline Town Meeting

WBUR reports Brookline Town Meeting voted Wednesday to ban oil and gas hookups in new buildings - or buildings undergoing major reconstruction work. The measure needs the approval of the state Attorney General's office before it can go into effect.



While Brookliners are using crappy electric stovetops and low quality electric baseboards, China will keep pumping CO2 into the atmosphere unabated.

I guess it's good for all the homeowners with gas hookups, gives them another thing to point to when they sell.



First of all, gas cooking is not included in the ban. Secondly, there are different types of radiant electric heating that are effective and (I think) better than forced hot air systems.

Some town has to be first. Just because there are others who may be polluting more than us is no reason not to try and be part of the solution, rather than just throwing up our hands and saying "oh well, why bother trying to improve the situation -- it's hopeless.". Perhaps it will be successful and others will follow suit.


Brookline cannot control, or even affect, China's energy policies. They can affect energy policy within their borders. That your neighbor is still beating his children is not a reason you shouldn't stop beating yours. You should.

Also note that China has been investing heavily in renewable energy. It's true that their fossil-fuel use has been increasing, but they are trying to reduce it.


First of all, gas cooking is not included in the ban

Actually it does include gas cooking. From the Globe:

Brookline residents have voted to ban the installation of oil and gas pipes in new buildings as well as in extensive renovations of existing buildings

If you can't have a pipe, you can't have a cooktop. The article later notes that restaurants and others could apply for an exemption.


Eventually the gas company would say, no thanks it's too expensive to run the line, there will be no choices, and electric will skyrocket higher.

If a house or apartment really wants cooking gas there may be nothing in this keeping them from having a propane tank which they could pipe to a stove.

You are so invested in the status quo that you don't see that there will be significant changes coming but only problems with changing from it. Let me give you an example of a possible way houses will be powered in the future. With current technology you can have solar panels on your roof and store power in batteries (see Tesla's powerwall). Maybe there will be more small wind turbines you can mount on the roof peak to add to the generation as well. With efficiencies in both generation and storage let's say it gets to the point that you can power your home 95% of the days of the year and it's only when you have house guests or other reasons for high demand that you lack sufficient electricity.

Right now that's not a big deal because you can still draw from the grid. But then let's say that this becomes more common and it hits a critical mass situation where the power companies are not getting much revenue for selling you power and so the charge for maintaining the system to keep the line going to your house is probably going to go through the roof. That will frustrate consumers and some entrepreneur will probably step up with a business model where they have trucks that are loaded with battery arrays which can transport electricity from a commercial scale green energy generation and storage facility. That will allow homeowners to cut their house off from the grid as they can generate most of their power but have their batteries fully charged when the need arises (which could probably include an automatic notification to a company you contract with when the power drops to a certain level). It wouldn't bee too different than a fuel oil truck coming to your house today, it's just that it would be energy which can be used for most applications and not just heating the house.

Just no.

So, how much electricity was generated on this theoretical Brookline home this past week from solar? Answer...not much. Cloudy weather means almost no solar, no matter what the panel sellers tell you. I've seen solar collectors mounted on roofs facing north. If that means nothing to you, then you might want to do a little more basic research. Basic trig and astronomy are your friends.

Roof mounted windmills? Erratic, voltage regulation can be a mess unless done right, maybe good for a couple of hundred watts at most.

You want one? Go look for wind generators that mount on sailboats. They make them. They work. They can keep a couple of marine batteries charged. Go to a marina. Ask around. They're great, but if you live in Brookline, you ain't gonna power a stove with one...never mind heat your house.

"a possible way houses will be powered in the future...."
"With efficiencies in both generation and storage let's say it gets to the point that you can power your home 95% of the days of the year and it's only when you have house guests or other reasons for high demand that you lack sufficient electricity."

If you didn't pick up on the fact that I was talking about what is potential and a theoretical future system then you wasted a lot of typing.

They want to pass a law for the here and now.

Let's deal in reality for the moment...because of climate change, hurricanes will get worse, winters can be longer and colder, snow can get deeper, flooding can get greater.
Because of sunspot minimums, solar radiation could be lessened. A bad combination.
We're dealing with the present and the near future. There ain't no magic batteries, no 130% efficient collectors and no flying cars.

There's just Brookline, gearing up for an electric future that New Hampshire and Maine are going to cockblock. (see another post.)

Brookline Is Still Cooking With Gas, But Has Banned Fossil Fuels For Heating

That is the headline at the linked article.

"The town's original proposal banned fossil fuel infrastructure for both heating and cooking. To increase support, proponents modified the measure to permit gas cooking stoves in new buildings and house rehabs."

Brookline refuses to build housing in their MBTA accessible neighborhoods and push hard against any attempts to do so. They are close to meeting 40B requirements and will then slam the doors shut on further developments of any size while acting concerned about traffic and cost of living issues in the metro region.

Parasite town full of smug, rich hypocrites.


I'll wager most of the people who voted for this got into their 3-row SUV and drove 0.6 miles home, to a house that already has gas installed because - y'know, this is just for new construction.


"I simply must have a 10k BTU stove to properly sear my steaks* as I am a serious chef as a hobby. I would get a Prius but Alistair** gets so nervous when we travel in small cars."

* steaks because keto diet
** Alistair could be a son, daughter or bichon frise in this scenario.


Actually, the article says 'major reconstruction work'. So...

If you have gas piped to your house, you never do a major reconstruction. Eventually the town building department will keep stretching the definition until it includes cleaning your gutters. That's where the high priced lawyers of the high priced homeowners come in. Town will eventually spend big money in court.

Cooling your home will be important and there will be no need to heat your home anymore.

But then, Boomer, you will already be dead.

Your wild paranoid imagination != reality.

Where exactly does Brookline think electricity comes from in Massachusetts?

Spoiler: It's fossil fuels

I guess they just don't want all that CO2 polluting their own precious hyperlocal atmosphere.


Short term, yes most of the electricity in MA comes from fossil fuels, but that's changing. The share of the power grid from green energy is increasing. Meanwhile, the decision made during building construction will stick around for the next 100+ years.


Spoiled: only 2/3 of MA electricity is generated from gas, and that share decreases every year. None is from coal. Oil is used to generate less than 2% of our power; it's used only to back-up gas. Since it is now cheaper to build and operate renewable facilities than it is to continue operating existing fossil-fueled plants, expect the energy industry to abandon fossil fuels completely, unless the Federal government increases the already massive fossil subsidies.


Is more gas used if you pipe natural gas to a home and burn it there for heat, or if you burn it at a central power plant, and transmit electricity to the house for heat?


it doesn't matter.

map of all natural gas leaks in JUST Metro Boston. These leaks go unpaired for years, and they are emitting gas 24 hours a day, so that folks can have gas at their stove. So my guess is yes, even with transmission energy loss through heat it's probably more efficient to burn the gas for electricity and send the electricity out to do the heating and cooking.
My issue is, with more dramatic storms/weather, what is the backup plan for when the electric grid is down? Especially in winter for heating.

Specifically to compare induction cooktops with gas stoves. The devil, unsurprisingly, is in the details.

Thermodynamic efficiency of a power plant is in the high thirties or 40%. The electric distribution grid loses somewhere around 15% between power plant and house. Thermodynamic efficiency of a gas stove is above 50%. The efficiency of an induction cooktop is well above 80%. ( electric heat is always 100% efficient, but when looking at cooking you need to account for the energy that heats the room rather than the food)

That makes the gas stove seem like a win at first. But... Our electricity source is not all fossil fuels by any means, and the mix is improving over time. And, significantly, the gas distribution network leaks. And the retail maze of little old pipes that lead to your neighborhood, your street, and your house leaks a lot more than the fat wholesale pipes leading to the power plant. and the leaked gas is not just wasted: it is vastly more environmentally costly than the CO2 produced by combustion.

I looked into this expecting to confirm my hunch that electric conversion was BS virtue signaling, and I found that my hunch was quite wrong.


Very interesting, thanks.

Kudos for doing some research and the concern about gas leaks is legit, but when it comes to gas usage, you are looking at the wrong appliance.

Unless you run a commercial food establishment, cooking represents only 5 % or so of the gas you use. A gas dryer may add to that as well, but not much unless one does 5 loads of laundry a day. Space heating and water heating typically represent 90% + of a residential building's gas usage.

In his January 2019 "Musings of an Energy Nerd" column, energy guru Martin Holladay (who is not an advocate for the fossil fuel industry) wrote about it. In his calculation, space heating in MA with an electric heat pump (coefficient of performance 2.5) was 45% more expensive than heating with a gas boiler (82% efficiency). I came to a similar conclusion when I did the math for a project I am working on.

This is the link to that column -sorry if it's subscriber only.

The wealthy locales that vote for gas bans for new buildings (San Jose, Berkeley, Brookline etc) are also filled with residents who fly tens of thousand of miles a year, leaving huge carbon footprints in their track. I let others decide what's virtue signaling.

Taxing (and dividend) carbon emissions across the board at punishing levels is the way to go, but it probably won't be politically doable in the US until we have disasters 100 times the scale of this year's California wildfires happening every year. By then, it may be a little late...


Don't rack up the heating degree days each year that we do.

Burning natural gas to produce electricity is inherently less efficient than burning natural gas to produce heat.

Current gas turbine efficiencies range between 20 and 35 percent.

Current gas boiler efficiencies start at 82 percent.

Even in the most optimistic projections - with future efficiencies of gas turbines projected to reach 60%, and capture of waste heat, the efficiency doesn't reach that of a gas boiler, which can already reach 95%. Simply put, it is far, far more efficient to burn gas to produce heat than to produce electricity, and will always remain so.


Electrical transmission loses about 5%, gas transmission loses about 3%. Call it a wash.

If the Brookline ordinance forces gas to be burned at the power plant at 20-35% efficiency instead of in the basement at 82-95% efficiency, it will increase gas consumption, not decrease it. To produce the same heat where needed, almost triple the amount of gas will be burned at the power plant versus in the basement.

Electrical transmission loses about 5%, gas transmission loses about 3%. Call it a wash.

I could quibble with the numbers, but irrespective of that there's a key difference that shouldn't be ignored:

Transmission losses in the electric distribution grid are merely a waste of energy. Transmission losses in gas distribution leak methane into the atmosphere; methane is a potent greenhouse gas. Accordingly, the environmental cost of losses in the electric grid are limited to the effects of burning a little more fuel, while the environmental cost of an equivalent % loss in the gas distribution grid are much higher.

I don't know whether burning 5N of gas is better for the environment than spilling 3N, as you say.

But the fact remains that the effect of Brookline's decision is to greatly increase the amount of natural gas burnt, not to decrease it.


Since it is now cheaper to build and operate renewable facilities than it is to continue operating existing fossil-fueled plants

That may be true in West Texas, but here in Massachusetts? Wind, and especially solar, require a lot of real estate per megawatt, as do transmission lines if you're going to ask somewhere else to make your electricity for you. Real estate is in kinda short supply around here, and real estate without fussy abutters is even rarer.

If rich people quit suing to stop coastal wind farms, there's all kinds of space.

Also, plenty of money in the banana stand...

Real estate is in kinda short supply around here

Where around here = metro Boston MAYBE. The electricity used in Boston mostly comes from somewhere else -- often from somewhere with lots of available open space. There's a major trend of siting PV solar arrays on municipal building rooftops, closed-down landfills, and other unused spaces. Note that there are large areas devoted to storage of natural gas in Chelsea and elsewhere. When the market for NG dries up, those areas become surplus. Even if buildings go up on them, the roofs of those buildings can support PV arrays. It doesn't take a huge expanse of panels to generate a household worth of power; my roof generates more than we use.

After noting that nuclear power accounts for 1/6th of power generation, it notes that renewables account for a seventh of power generated, or 14.3% of our mix. I hate to break it to you, but 66.6% is more than 14.3%, and of the remaining 19%, most of that is slated to be replaced by natural gas.

Natural gas is the cheapest source for electricity power. That's why nuclear and coal are dying off, one of those being the worst for the environment and the other being amongst the best.

If you figure in the true costs of natural gas, including externalities such as climate change, fracking impacts, etc... natural gas would not be the cheapest source of power even today. Assuming sane environmental policy returns to this country and we try to get a handle on this ongoing global catastrophe, natural gas is going to be taxed according to these externalities and the real cheapest sources will be renewable.

And were natural gas taxed for externalities, I gotta guess that the form of energy that produces 0 greenhouse gases and is the most reliable will be the one in ascendancy, but no one likes to talk nuclear anymore. Heck, die Grune in Germany put the government on a course to increase the use of brown coal in electricity generation because nuclear is yucky.

Natural gas is the cheapest source for electricity power.

You're wrong:

Wind power prices now lower than the cost of natural gas
In the US, it's cheaper to build and operate wind farms than buy fossil fuels.


It’s now cheaper to build new renewables than it is to build natural gas plants

That nuclear power isn't going to be replaced by gas; that would be more expensive than renewables.

But I'm going with the markets on this, which show, at least locally, that natural gas is ascendant while wind is still going nowhere, as has been the case for at least 15 years. Nothing against wind, other than the utter unpredictability of the source, but I gotta go with the facts on the ground.

You aren't giving us facts; you're giving us opinions, and they're based on outdated data. The articles I linked to are from within the last couple of months. You can easily find other, older ones that predict renewables will be cheaper than gas by next year. Those are articles in Bloomberg, Forbes, and other financial sources. Nobody's going to build gas plants any more; they're a waste of money. Nuclear is way too expensive, and takes way too long to bring on line.

Pilgrim shut down because it was more costly to run versus natural gas.

Cape Wind still hasn't gotten approval, and yes, I do know that Cape Wind is dead, but one of the things that killed it was that National Grid and NStar wanted subsidies to buy energy from it.

These are known things. I know that the sun rises in the east every morning, too. But if you want an article, here's one.

But if you want an article, here's one.

From the article:

climate-killing fossil fuels

When global cooling epic failed, they turned to global warming.

When global warming epic failed, they turned to climate change.

Now that climate change is epic failing, they are turning to climate killing.

You do NOT want to go to an area where the climate has been killed, lol.

Here's one thing it said:

The rise of renewables has been faster than anticipated. They are literally replacing old fossil fuel plants with a bang.

You do know that gas is a fossil fuel, right? Nowhere in that article does anyone assert that gas is cheaper than solar or wind. The only price comparison is to coal. You may "know" that gas is the cheapest, but that isn't true any more.

They have the answer...Quebec Hydro. Never mind pissing off (and stepping on) the First Nations, it might just be a bunch of bullshit foisted on the gullible in the name of the almighty (Canadian) dollar.

So, there's talk of Quebec Hydro electricity being brought down to Massachusetts. The mood in Maine is that Central Maine Power (CMP) might not be able to get it done. Maine PUC issued a permit, but there's a ballot initiative that could stop it. There's a pisspot full of local opposition to it. ' “The Central Maine Power corridor proposal remains one of the most controversial projects that Maine people have seen come to the state in a long time,” Pete Didisheim, senior director of advocacy at the Natural Resources Council of Maine, told The Center Square. The council sponsored a poll this year that showed 72 percent of Mainers oppose the project, Didisheim said, mainly due to its environmental impact.'
Same with NH, where the line got killed.
So, thanks, Brookline for doing this. Maybe you can talk Wellesley and Dover into the same, but I doubt it.
More gas for the rest of us.

And coal?

Coal is dead. It's the most expensive way to generate electricity -- much more expensive than wind or solar. Nuclear is too expensive to build and takes a long time to get running. Both coal and nuclear have major environmental drawbacks that renewables don't have. No coal plants or nuclear plants are going to be started up in this country ever again.

coal has to be the dirtiest way to generate electricity, not to mention the most harmful to people's overall health, and to the environment. More acid rain would result from the use of coal to produce electricity, which would harm the environment, and kill off all the lakes, rivers, streams, and, eventually, the oceans.

A relatively small amount of nuclear power helps produce our electricity, but huge amounts of nuclear power could be extremely dangerous, especially due to the harm that lots of it would due to people and the environment, plus there's really no viable way to store nuclear waste.

We use residential gas for heating and cooking. If gas prices quadruple (which brings down the cost of everything else), why not get a nice coal furnace to heat the house?

And there are plenty of arguments for nuclear power being the cheapest and cleanest energy as well. If you essentially ban natural gas, you will see nuclear power plants pop up again.

First, nuclear plants don't "pop up." It takes years to build one and get it producing. Solar can be installed in days, while wind takes longer, but still a small fraction of the time it takes to have a working reactor. Also, if you weren't talking about generating electricity, why were you talking about nuclear at all? You going to cook with it? "Cleanest?" Do you know where all the nuclear waste is stored? Every nuclear power site in the US is a nuclear waste site, because nobody wants that stuff going to, through, or near their state. Cheapest? That's funny.

Why not get a coal furnace to heat the house? I remember those. You wouldn't like it. Your neighbors wouldn't like it. The DEP wouldn't like it. Smelly, dirty, and unhealthy. Don't be ridiculous.

I fall into the camp feeling that this is a bit of an overreach. Electric heat in the Northeat has the reputation (I believe well deserved) of being much more expensive than gas or oil. If every new building must be all electric, it will drive up the cost of running these dwellings and thus increase the cost of housing. Maybe Brookline doesn't care, but it's bad for the region.


My 100 year old wooden house is very hard to truly air seal and thoroughly insulate. A new construction building is way, way easier to make very energy efficient, reducing the cost to heat it by a lot.

I just installed a mini split heat pump in my house to get away from the oil furnace I had. Expect to see savings overall in my utility bill as a result. The thing uses so little electricity and is super quiet. Hoping to add solar in the future, thus generating my own heat and no more heating bill at all. People are still thinking of those electric baseboards which are terribly expensive to run.

Oh yeah, we already are.


China is set to add new coal-fired power plants equivalent to the EU’s entire capacity, as the world’s biggest energy consumer ignores global pressure to rein in carbon emissions in its bid to boost a slowing economy. - Financial Times, November 2019

China promises to take a look at its massive, increasing carbon emissions somewhere around 2030. In the meantime, the emissions have been warned to avoid Brookline since it's "No Place for Heat." How are the cancer rates in the poor US and Canada communities where the electric plants and huge power lines are located? Hard to see the situation from the low seat of the "clean burning" Tesla in Brookline Village.

China does a lot of things. Do you look to them to tell you what's right?

They have decided to stop building new ones.

Sorry if that doesn't fit your narrative.

The US needs to lead or we will end up following. Your choice is ...

If done well, a house could potentially be off the grid completely.

A place to store excess power is helpful, too.

Geothermal requires land. Most houses in north Brookline don't have big enough yards for geothermal.


Gas Turbines Have Become by Far the Best Choice for Add-on Generating Power
They offer instant-on power that's compact, mobile, quiet, economical, durable, and matchlessly efficient

Instead of banning natural gas, each home should be using it to generate their own electricity and eliminate the losses from remote power generation. That could dramatically curtail emissions and harden our infrastructure from disruptions with possibilities for microgrid and macrogrid redundancy.

This is simply an end run around Chapter 40B. The vote has nothing to do with electricity.

If the town meeting members were serious about energy they would have linked the new bylaw to actual implementation and availability of non-renewable energy supplies. Currently the amount of energy in MA produced by wind farms, hydroelectric dams, solar, cold fusion reactors, etc is less than 10% of our needs. In other words, Brookline is just mandating the most expensive form of energy for all renovations and new construction which isn't a problem for most Brookline residents whose sole source of income is dividends and bond income.

Linking this to green energy is a red herring

Seriously dude? Most of the people I know in Brookline work for a living - doctors, lawyers, and many more making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. You'd need well over $10 million in financial assets to make up for their income.

As for 40b - maybe. But don't make unsubstantiated claims to justify your unfounded accusations.

That's a wacky idea.

But the idea that folks in Brookline are happy to prevent new residential construction by any means justifiable? Not so wacky.

But the finance part seems more than a bit of a stretch.

So the idea that most people in Brookline have dividends and bonds as a sole source of income must be neither far out in right field nor far out in left field. It's not even in the ballpark.

Brookline, MA
Population 59,246
Number of Employees 33,038


Seriously, I don't think there's a municipality in America where most people count dividends and bonds as a sole source of income.