Energy freedom on the ballot in Washington State

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Climate change policies tend to become unpopular as soon as the public realizes the effects such policies will have on them. That certainly is the case with efforts to deprive homeowners and businesses of affordable and reliable natural gas and force them to accept electricity as their only energy choice. Most recently, a Washington state ballot initiative to preserve natural gas availability garnered over 500,000 signatures in only 50 days; more than enough to be included on the ballot in next November’s elections.

Both Washington state and several blue cities and counties within it have taken measures to curtail the future availability of natural gas. Proponents of these and other anti-gas provisions have enacted them on the grounds that natural gas is a fossil fuel and thus a contributor to climate change. Notwithstanding questions about the seriousness of climate change or the merits of anti-gas measures to address it, homeowners and businesses see natural gas in a very different light. To them, natural gas is a 24/7 energy source that is three times cheaper than electricity and ideal for tasks like heating and providing hot water. Further, the qualitative differences between cooking with gas and cooking with electricity are so great that Washington state restaurant owners have been active participants in the push to save natural gas.

The ballot measure, Initiative Measure No. 2066, would rescind the relevant provisions of state and local laws that restrict natural gas availability. Given the ease with which it received enough signatures to get on the ballot, the measure appears to have a good chance of passage in November. 

26 other states have already enacted legislation preserving natural gas as a fuel choice. However, the Washington state ballot initiative is different in that it is being advanced in the face of strong opposition from the governor and state legislature. Both continue to cite climate change as their overriding concern and see the end of natural gas as a key part of their green energy transition.

This pro-natural gas ballot initiative joins another one targeting high gasoline prices in the state. Initiative Measure No. 2117 would eliminate Washington’s cap-and-trade program that has contributed to pump prices averaging  $4.29 per gallon, over 75 cents higher than the national average and behind only California and Hawaii. So, it is more than fair to say that energy choice and affordability will be on the ballot for Washington state voters on November 5th.