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Increased use of electric space and hot water heating can cut carbon emissions from U.S. homes and buildings, a major source of greenhouse gases, a new analysis from the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute concludes.

The big picture: The report underscores how achieving extremely steep emissions cuts in the coming decades will require far more than just increased use of low-carbon power generation sources.

The details: The analysis concludes that in new construction, and existing buildings that currently use propane or oil, it's already cost-effective to use electricity instead. It may be economical for some homes already running on natural gas, but the results are less decisive.

Even a wholly carbon-free power system would only cut U.S. emissions by 30 percent, RMI notes. This is far from enough for the 14 states with official plans to cut emissions by 75 percent or more by 2050. Electrification may play a key role in closing that gap.

  • "Widespread electrification of buildings, ground transportation, and half of industry would boost reductions to more than 70% if powered by zero-carbon electricity," the report states.

One level deeper: Here are the most immediate steps to bring about more widespread building electrification, according to RMI:

  • Nearly all buildings running on propane or fuel oil (9 percent of homes and 11 percent of commercial buildings) stand to gain financially by switching to electricity.
  • In most cases, new buildings made to run on electricity will cost less, emit less and allow for greater flexible grid demand in home energy management.
  • States and cities with deep carbon-cutting goals should halt their natural gas infrastructure development.

The catch: The report lays out several obstacles. For one thing, contractors and customers still have little awareness of heat pumps as a cost-effective and cleaner alternative to natural gas, which is the default energy source in nearly all new construction.

And changes are unlikely to be made without strong support from municipal and state governments. One example is California Assembly Bill 3232 (awaiting approval in the state Senate), which would require all buildings to run fully on electricity and be emission free by 2030. It's getting a lot of pushback from natural gas consumer and industry groups.

Go deeper

Parkland shooting victims' families settle suit with school district

A makeshift memorial outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2020. Photo: Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Families and survivors of a 2018 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., reached a $25 million settlement in their lawsuit against the Broward County school district Monday, per the South Florida SunSentinel.

Why it matters: A deal was reached in the suit over the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High after the school district won a Florida Supreme Court ruling that could have capped damages at $300,000 in total without approval from the state legislature, AP notes.

Texas Republicans pass new congressional maps in their favor

Photo: Matthew Busch/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Texas House voted 84-59 late Monday to approve new congressional district maps that reduce the number of districts with Black and Hispanic majorities, per the Texas Tribune.

Why it matters: The legislation comes after recent census figures found Texas' growing diverse population doesn't bode well for Republicans, who then worked to protect incumbents with the redrawn maps.

2 hours ago - World

North Korea's military fires another ballistic missile into sea

A woman in Seoul, South Korea, walks past a television image if North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Photo: Jung Yeon-je/AFP via Getty Images

North Korea's military fired at least one ballistic missile into the sea off its east coast on Tuesday, per multiple reports.

Why it matters: Pyongyang's latest in a series of recent missile launches happened hours after U.S. officials emphasized their commitment to restart negotiations on North Korea's nuclear weapons program, which have stalled since talks broke down during the Trump administration, AP notes.