Sandra Koch: Which energy direction is Nevada heading?

Does Gov. Joe Lombardo’s choice to lead Nevada’s energy transition team impact Nevada’s goals to address climate change?

Choosing Karen Haller, president and chief executive officer of Southwest Gas Holdings Inc., as the leader of the transition team on energy seems an odd choice for a state with a goal to reduce Nevada’s carbon footprint.

Southwest Gas and its holding company make their money from selling methane (natural) gas. They advocate for the expansion of the infrastructure to add new natural gas customers in Nevada. A quick search of Haller did not yield any information about her beliefs related to the science of climate change. However, her 25 years working for Southwest Gas certainly shows a long-term association with a group that is denying the contribution that burning methane gas plays in health harms and carbon pollution.

Nevadans should know that their health is impacted by these decisions. The known health risks from household use of methane are significant and concerning. Gas stoves/fireplaces release nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde into our homes and are directly responsible for about a 30% increase in childhood asthma. Burning natural gas to heat our home or hot water contributes to air pollution in our community; those exposed to that polluted air on a regular basis have a shortened life expectancy. Perhaps most importantly, methane gas is one of the most potent greenhouse gases; continued use increases carbon pollution and drives global warming.

Nevada has an abundance of solar (first in the nation) and geothermal (third in the nation) potential. We should be growing our infrastructure for both of these as quickly as possible. Nevada doesn’t produce any natural gas, it’s all imported, so let’s speak up against the building of new infrastructure for methane gas distribution.

Newly-built methane gas infrastructure will lock in the use of methane gas for more home for decades to come. Since the infrastructure costs are paid for over time by the users. As people switch to cheaper, lower carbon energy sources, those left using methane will face rising costs as fewer users will be forced to cover the costs of the methane infrastructure built during transition and the price of methane rises.

Let’s make sure our governor knows that Nevadans want access to home grown, cheaper, healthier, lower carbon energy sources. Every new home should be built using heat pumps (which both heat and air condition homes), solar panels and electric stoves; the homes will be healthier and cheaper, especially with the rebate available.

As a leader of the governor’s transition team, Haller has the power to choose the direction that Nevada’s energy infrastructure takes over the next four years. Let’s hope she continues the work to move Nevada to a low carbon future. We should all care deeply about the decisions she makes.

Dr. Sandra Koch is a Carson City resident.

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