Every morning millions of Californians wake up and tweak their heater controls to warm up, and turn on hot water to shower.
It happens automatically due to abundant natural gas, and up until recently, gas has been as cheap as it has ever been.
Now we are getting a wake-up call. Natural gas supplies worldwide have gone from surplus to shortage just as winter drawdowns are a couple of months away. In the U.S., last winter’s late freeze in Texas and disruptive hurricane season have played a role, and so have very low prices and liquefied natural gas shipments to Europe.
Policy changes have played a role, too — banks are being discouraged from lending to natural gas producers by clean energy advocates.
And communities are rushing to ban natural gas from new construction. No city in the tri-county region has taken this step yet, but it is a common refrain for environmentalists on the Central Coast.
Natural gas is a much cleaner alternative to coal for power generation, but it is not risk-free.
The terrible leak at Aliso Canyon near Porter Ranch in the San Fernando Valley disrupted thousands of households in 2015 and 2016, and SoCal Gas is now paying $1.8 billion in a settlement with property owners. And the deadly explosion in San Bruno in 2010, in the San Francisco Bay Area, shows what happens when gas line maintenance is neglected.
But natural gas continues to flow when power goes out, and it can be blended with diesel and other fuels to reduce carbon emissions. It fuels most of the garbage trucks in the region.
The price squeeze this year will impact consumers. And it serves as a reminder that there is a long-running role for natural gas until electrification is a viable and fully reliable replacement.
A REASON TO CELEBRATE
As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, it is worth noting a few of the highlights of the recent California Lutheran University-UCLA research on California’s Latino economy, as the Business Times reported last week:
• California’s Latino economy is larger than the GDP of Ohio, at $706.6 billion in 2018.
• The nation’s Latino economy is larger than that of Texas, at $2.6 trillion.
• Workforce participation among Latinos was 4.6 percentage points higher than for non-Latinos during the 2010-18 period.
• From 2010 to 2018, educational attainment grew 2.5 times faster for Latinos than for non-Latinos.
The report described economic growth among the nation’s Latino population as “breathtaking.”
“Latinos are making strong and consistent contributions to California’s population and labor force,” wrote the report’s authors, Matthew Fienup of the CLU Center for Economic Research and Forecasting and David Hayes-Bautista of UCLA.
This sounds a lot like a typical American success story. That should be cause for celebration.