Thank you for publishing the excellent review by Nick Bridge of Saul Griffith’s very important book, Electrify Everything [‘Electrify’ is the key to the climate crisis, Viewpoints, Jan. 26]. This book is a serious, solid account of what must be done to avert catastrophic climate change. But it is also an optimistic look at a much cleaner and safer world that is within our power to create.

Griffith’s book addresses the climate crisis as a whole, arguing that it is an emergency and that the crucial problem is to reduce and eventually eliminate the burning of fossil fuels. He describes in some detail a lot of changes our country and our world will have to make, including revamping the electrical grid, zoning changes, and financing.

If we take Griffith’s point of view and apply it to Oak Park, one thing jumps out at us: buildings. Buildings are the main source of fossil fuel emissions in a town like this. Heating homes with gas. Cooking with gas. Making hot water with gas. Drying clothes with gas. None of this is necessary. Surprisingly to most people, homes and other buildings can be heated with heat pumps, and it is cost-competitive with gas, especially when they are designed and built that way from the beginning.

Not only is burning natural gas in buildings bad for the climate, it is bad for your health. A recent study from Stanford University showed that gas stoves leak a lot of methane into the air even when turned off, as well as emitting harmful nitrogen dioxide when in use.

The biggest thing Oak Park can do right now about climate change is to ban the burning of gas in new buildings. This would follow the lead of New York City, San Francisco, and towns and cities all over California. Governor Hochul has called for New York State to follow suit. And Ithaca, New York is planning to eliminate gas in all existing buildings! 

Oak Park’s Building Code Advisory Commission is working on revisions for our building code. We believe our code should be amended immediately to require all new buildings to be all-electric. 

To get to carbon neutrality, the world will have to electrify. Buildings are going up now that will be anachronistic in a few years. We need to move quickly.

Doug Burke
Senior Climate Action

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