Crested Butte Needs the Affordability and Reliability of Natural Gas

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By John Solanik

(July 27, 2022) The town of Crested Butte is considering new building codes that will essentially make it impossible for homeowners and businesses to access natural gas when it comes time to build a new structure or renovate an existing one.

To state it plainly: this would have massively negative consequences for members of the community. 

The town’s proposed “electrify everything” approach, based on the adoption of the 2021 IECC building codes, along with stretch codes, would ban homeowners from utilizing a gas stove for cooking or a gas fireplace or gas furnace for home heating and prevent business owners from using gas to power operations that are critical to our economy. This would increase the price of utility bills and the costs of services in town while undermining the resiliency of our local energy system. 

An analysis published by Home Innovation Research Labs clearly establishes that adopting the 2021 IECC even without the stretch codes will negatively impact housing affordability without corresponding energy savings benefits to justify the added building costs. 

A mountain town like Crested Butte that deals with freezing cold winters and heavy snow storms needs access to natural gas to ensure the affordability and reliability of energy. Increased energy costs would exacerbate lack of affordable housing and increase risks of reliable access to the energy we need.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, a highly respected independent research organization, homes in Colorado that use natural gas for heating save nearly $2,800 compared to electric heating because natural gas is much more affordable when the temperatures drop. 

As the owner of a fireplace installation business in Gunnison County, ensuring that homeowners and renters have access to a warm fire during the winter and affordable energy is one of my top priorities. 

When a big winter storm hits, natural gas helps ensure the reliability of energy. In fact, natural gas is the perfect complement to electricity which we use to keep the lights on and charge up our cell phones. When snow or wind knocks out the power, homes with natural gas still have access to a reliable heating source to stay warm. 

During this political debate, many of the “electrify everything” supporters will say that those who want access to natural gas don’t care for the environment, but nothing could be further from the truth.

I know hundreds of families and business owners who want access to natural gas and who also care deeply about protecting the natural beauty of Crested Butte and addressing climate change. 

Yet they also know that the transition to a lower carbon world isn’t going to happen overnight, and if not done correctly, will cause dramatic spikes in energy costs and lack of access to energy that undercuts personal budgets and the economy, as what’s happening in Europe right now.

There is public hearing on the proposed building codes on August 2. The time is now for the residents and business owners of Crested Butte to speak out in favor of natural gas to support an affordable and reliable energy system. 

It’s my hope that there will be dozens if not hundreds of people in our community willing to tell the town that we need choice in our energy system, which means access to both natural gas and electricity. 

Family budgets, economic growth, and the well-being of our town depends on it. 

John Solanik is President of Mountain Fireplace Specialists, Inc.