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Brown: Natural gas claims are misleading


Arizona is slowly but surely moving into a clean-energy future. This is good news for our monthly energy bills, our air and our health.

It’s not such good news for the fossil-fuel gas industry, which is struggling with how to respond. That’s obvious in recent posts from paid influencers on TikTok, Instagram and Facebook that tout the glories of “clean and affordable natural gas.”

Thus far, gas utilities and their industry partners have spent millions of dollars trying to convince Arizonans that their fossil fuel is “clean” and that appliances, such as gas stoves, are superior to electric ones. Some posts even claim that gas made from trash is a “carbon-neutral” piece of our sustainable future.

These claims are misleading. Some are marked as sponsored, some are not. Among the sponsors? Public relations firms that have Southwest Gas as a client. And some of the posts link directly to the Southwest Gas webpage.

Southwest Gas just increased rates in Nevada and has a proposed increase pending in Arizona. The product it sells is anything but sustainable or carbon neutral.

Let’s peel back the spin and look at the truth.

Methane gas is not a clean energy source. Gas stoves, for instance, emit nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde, which can prompt breathing problems and aggravate asthma, especially in children and seniors. Running a gas stove or oven for just 45 minutes can produce indoor pollution levels that would be illegal outside.

The “renewable natural gas” that the influencers’ posts tout is primarily methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Methane has a global warming potential that is as much as 87 times greater than carbon dioxide. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent “code red” special report warned that cutting methane emissions is critical if we’re to limit the rise in global temperatures. In addition, rising temperatures brought on by fossil-fuel-induced climate change are reducing the flow of the Colorado River, forcing tough decisions about allocating this dwindling source of water.

Gas is not safe. It’s combustible, and when it leaks, lives are put at risk. Last fall, the Arizona Corp. Commission began investigating Southwest Gas in connection with multiple gas leaks that resulted in evacuations and an explosion in the Valley.

Four people were injured when a gas line exploded at a Chandler print shop in August. Several north Scottsdale homes were evacuated after a leak in September. Six months earlier, a fire broke out on the Seventh Street Bridge over the Salt River because of a gas leak.

A clean energy future will not rely on gas. We need to be electrifying our homes and offices and transitioning away from gas, which must be imported into Arizona from other states.

Arizona’s opportunity — for cleaner air and improved health, job growth, and lower energy bills — lies in capitalizing on our state’s inherent advantages, such as our abundant sunshine. Misleading posts that tout gas as something it is not hinder the cause.

Editor’s note: Diane E. Brown is the executive director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, an organization that conducts research and education on issues in the public interest. More information can be found at ArizonaPIRGEdFund.org.