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Natural gas meters outside residential townhomes. Photo: Tim Boyle/Getty Images

A growing number of cities are eliminating natural gas hookups in new homes and buildings as they work to reduce emissions and help meet climate targets.

The big picture: Fossil fuels burned in buildings contribute a tenth of overall U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. While coal use continues to decline, natural gas use has held steady, making it a prime target in efforts to decarbonize.

Where it stands: At least 8 California cities have passed new policies this year to support all-electric new construction, and the trend is spreading beyond the state.

Context: Reducing GHG emissions from buildings to keep pace with climate goals will require increasing efficiency, transitioning from fossil fuel to electric appliances, and boosting supplies of renewable energy, according to a report published in August by scientists with the Department of Energy.

How it works: Accelerating the switch to all-electric buildings prevents locking in infrastructure that relies on dirtier fuel sources.

  • The cost savings of not installing new gas lines or separate furnaces and air conditioners are an added benefit. Building all-electric new houses in Oakland, Houston, Chicago and Providence is cheaper than incorporating gas, according to Rocky Mountain Institute research.

Yes, but: There are still barriers to widespread building electrification, from regulatory hurdles to limited support from utility programs.

  • As gas use declines, utilities will need new solutions to pay for gas grids that support a dwindling customer base. In many cases, outdated gas infrastructure will need to be decommissioned when it’s no longer needed.

The bottom line: Renewable electricity has become cheaper as it has expanded, helping the U.S. electricity system cut its emissions by 25% in the last 10 years. Transitioning from gas to fully electric power in buildings could further extend that progress.

Mike Henchen is a manager with Rocky Mountain Institute's building electrification team.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Ipsos poll: COVID trick-or-treat.
  2. World: Greece tightens coronavirus restrictions as Europe cases spike.
  3. Economy: Conference Board predicts economy won’t fully recover until late 2021.
  4. Education: Surge threatens to shut classrooms down again.
  5. Technology: Fully at-home rapid COVID test to move forward.
  6. Travel: CDC replaces COVID-19 cruise ban with less restrictive "conditional sailing order."

Trump's legacy is shaped by his narrow interests

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

President Trump's policy legacy is as much defined by what he's ignored as by what he's involved himself in.

The big picture: Over the past four years, Trump has interested himself in only a slim slice of the government he leads. Outside of trade, immigration, a personal war against the "Deep State" and the hot foreign policy issue of the moment, Trump has left many of his Cabinet secretaries to work without interruption, let alone direction.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
4 hours ago - Technology

AI and automation are creating a hybrid workforce

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

AI and automation are receiving a boost during the coronavirus pandemic that in the short term is creating a new hybrid workforce rather than destroying jobs outright.

The big picture: While the forces of automation and AI will eliminate some jobs and create some new ones, the vast majority will remain but be dramatically changed. The challenge for employers will be ensuring workforces are ready for the effects of technology.