The American Gas Association (AGA) is a trade group representing investor-owned gas utilities and a limited number of publicly owned utilities. AGA opposes electrification and uses its resources to promote gas by advocating for gas-friendly building codes, lobbying Congress and state governments, and commissioning favorable reports. AGA is funded by dues from the member gas utilities, which pass along the vast majority of those costs to customers who pay them in their monthly gas bills.
The Sustainable Growth Committee (SGC), consisting of several dozen AGA’s members, steers AGA’s efforts to block electrification. Recently, SGC has been focusing on promoting Renewable Natural Gas, a rebranded term for what had largely been known as biomethane, as an alternative to electrification. SGC has facilitated funding from its members to commission three studies to promote RNG over electrification: Implications of Policy-Driven Residential Electrification (2018), Renewable Sources of Natural Gas (2019) and Opportunities For Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions Through Emerging Natural Gas Direct-use Technologies (2019). (See here for more information on RNG.)
AGA’s Building Energy Codes and Standards Committee (BECS) is another venue where AGA members fight building electrification. Committee members meet several times a year to vote on AGA’s positions for model building energy codes and standards set by organizations such as the International Code Consortium. As stated policy, BECS “opposes “electrification” efforts that would prohibit, negatively impact, or limit consumer choice for the direct use of natural gas.”
Below you will find a sample of documents and quotes from thousands of pages of records obtained by public records requests.
AGA’s official policy position opposing electrification
In the BECS January 2019 Committee Binder, AGA lays out its position “oppos[ing] “electrification” efforts that would prohibit, negatively impact, or limit consumer choice for the direct use of natural gas.”
AGA members concerned investors will be spooked by electrification trend
A set of emails from the fall of 2018 BECS group contains dialogue about the creation of the principles. An employee of NW Natural said the following in the thread:
Researchers, manufacturers, investors, etc. will need assurances that natural gas utilities continue our eﬀorts to support the direct use of natural gas for them to consider supporting eﬀorts and funding projects that are designed to develop the next generation of direct use natural gas products. If they see no or limited support in the codes and standards area to oppose “electriﬁcation,” they will understandably not continue spending research dollars and resources to develop new natural gas products and systems.
The NW Natural executive goes on to explain the importance of his opposition in Washington State:
As an example of what can and is happening on a state basis, I have been involved on the Technical Advisory Group reviewing proposed changes to the Washington State Energy Code. Two change proposals will, if approved, use carbon emissions rather than energy use or energy cost as a basis for compliance. Certain members of the TAG have proposed using an artiﬁcially and incorrectly low emissions factor for electricity which will unfairly disadvantage gas technologies. I have been actively opposing this low factor and have proposed a higher factor that will fairly evaluate alternatives. Although this is not an overt attempt at electriﬁcation, I believe the motivation is to move away from fossil fuels to heat pump technologies through the codes. If I had not been on the TAG and vigorously opposing this, it would have ﬂown right through and become code. I may still lose this battle, but I wanted to provide it as an example of what can happen if we are complacent.
AGA meetings notes from the Sustainable Growth Committee Meeting in March of 2018 points to RNG advocacy as part of a strategy to blunt anti-gas advocates: “Consider how technologies to decarbonize the pipeline can serve as a conduit to environmental organizations, thereby seeking to mitigate the opposition’s fervor against infrastructure expansion.” The suggestion came during a presentation by National Grid, which has faced fierce opposition to new pipeline construction from the advocacy group Mothers Out Front.
Neil Leslie, a GTI employee wrote the following line in his April 2018 presentation titled The Future of Natural Gas in Buildings: “Massive forced switching to electric technologies under decarbonization policies is an existential threat to natural gas direct use in buildings and transportation.”
Documents reveal that AGA recruits members of the American Public Gas Association (which represents municipal gas utilities), to take advantage of their government member status “to help ensure that AGA positions are successful” at the International Code Council, which sets model building code standards that municipalities then adopt.