The Biden administration is casting its plan to phase out the use of natural gas in federal buildings in favor of clean energy as a “cost-effective” move that will save taxpayers millions each year.
That’s baloney, according to a Washington Free Beacon review of federal data, which indicates that a Biden administration statement touting the plan’s frugality excludes the administration’s own findings on the increased cost of green energy sources as compared with natural gas.
In that statement, President Joe Biden’s Energy Department says the proposed natural gas phaseout “would save taxpayers $8 million annually in upfront equipment costs,” a figure that stems from the department’s Dec. 6 estimate of the plan’s budgetary impact. That estimate, however, also acknowledges that so-called clean electricity is roughly four-and-a-half times more expensive than natural gas, leading to “increases in energy costs across the board” that outweigh the savings on equipment expected under the plan. As a result, Biden’s transition away from natural gas will actually cost taxpayers up to $5 million annually, the Energy Department estimate says, a statistic that does not appear in the department’s statement.
Despite the increased costs associated with the plan, green energy groups—which Biden aggressively courted during his campaign in an attempt to win over liberal voters—quickly applauded the move. The Sierra Club, for example, said it was “excited that the Biden administration is making good on its promise” to advance green energy and pledged to “continue to work with the Biden administration.” But as Biden looks to expand his natural gas phaseout beyond the federal government and toward the general public—the Democrat has called for a carbon-free electric grid by 2035 and a decarbonized economy by 2050—he could alienate everyday Americans concerned about energy costs. Earlier this year, electricity prices in California surged to more than double the national average as the Democrat-dominated state worked to “swap gasoline-fueled cars and natural gas heaters for electric models,” E&E News reported in April.
“It’s a huge problem,” University of California, Berkeley, energy economist Severin Borenstein told E&E. Should the state decide to “mandate electrification,” Borenstein said, “then there’s just going to be huge political blowback” given the “immensely expensive” prices.
The White House did not return a request for comment. An Energy Department spokesman confirmed that the department’s claim that the plan would save taxpayers “$8 million per year” only stems from “the difference in the equipment cost from gas to electric” and does not factor in the increased energy costs expected under the plan. The spokesman did not answer questions on why the department excluded those increased energy costs from its statement announcing the plan.
The Biden administration is set to host a Jan. 5 “webinar” on its proposed federal building natural gas phaseout and will also field public comments on the plan through early February. The American Gas Association has already said it will “vigorously participate” in that public comment process, saying the cost of Biden’s plan “will be borne by every taxpayer.”
“Eliminating natural gas in federal buildings is an impractical, unscientific, and expensive idea that will have no environmental benefit,” the association said in a statement. “AGA will thoroughly evaluate the proposal and vigorously participate in the public comment process.”