Berkeley’s Double Shot of Regulatory ‘Wokeness’

From banning natural gas to the word “manhole,” science is definitely not part of the equation.

There were two mystifying decisions out of Berkeley, California, this week. One placates ecofascists, while the other appeases “toxic masculinity” rabble-rousers.

The first decision regards the use of natural gas. “Berkeley has become the first city in the nation to ban the installation of natural gas lines in new homes,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle, which adds, “The natural gas ordinance … requires all new single-family homes, town homes and small apartment buildings to have electric infrastructure.” Furthermore, “The city will include commercial buildings and larger residential structures as the state moves to develop regulations for those, officials said.” According to Mayor Jesse Arreguín, “I’m really proud to be on this City Council to adopt this groundbreaking ordinance. … We know that the climate crisis is deepening and is having cataclysmic impacts. … We have to take bold action now.”

The second decision revolves around gendered language. The San Francisco Chronicle explains, “In an effort to be more inclusive, the Berkeley City Council adopted an ordinance Tuesday to replace gendered language in the city’s municipal code with neutral terms. Personal pronouns like ‘she,’ ‘he,’ ‘her’ and ‘him’ will change to ‘they’ and ‘them.’ ‘Fireman’ or ‘firewoman’ will become ‘firefighter.’ ‘Manpower’ will be eschewed for ‘human effort’ or ‘workforce,’ while ‘maintenance hole’ will replace ‘manhole.’ In total, more than two dozen commonly used terms will be changed in the city code after the measure unanimously passed.”

The natural-gas decision is ridiculous for several reasons, the most salient being that extraction of this resource has helped the U.S. to make major inroads. Not only is the U.S. finally a net exporter of oil and, consequently, getting closer to energy independence, but natural gas and the methods used to extract it are an environmental and economic watershed. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration:

Burning natural gas for energy results in fewer emissions of nearly all types of air pollutants and carbon dioxide (CO2) than burning coal or petroleum products to produce an equal amount of energy. … New drilling and natural gas recovery technologies significantly reduce the land area that is disturbed to develop oil and gas resources. Horizontal and directional drilling techniques make it possible to produce more natural gas from a single well than in the past, so fewer wells are necessary to develop a natural gas field. Hydraulic fracturing … of shale, sandstone, and carbonate rock formations is opening up large reserves of natural gas that were previously too expensive to develop.

It would be one thing if Berkeley’s burgeoning electricity demands and corresponding natural-gas embargo were being accommodated with nuclear power plants. But that’s certainly not the case in California. In January 2018, The Hill reported that “California officials voted … to approve the closing of the state’s last nuclear power plant,” a decision the California Public Utilities Commission’s Michael Picker claimed “moves California away from the era of nuclear power and toward the era of zero-carbon renewable energy.” But make no mistake: Wind and solar cannot compete with fossil fuels and nuclear energy for efficiency.

As for gender-neutral language in city codes, Berkeley city council member Rigel Robinson remarked, “Gender-neutral language creates a lot of room to acknowledge that it’s not just men running the country.” He added, “Awareness and issues of gender identity are often particularly visible on college campuses, but it’s important that it doesn’t stay there. I’m a cisgender heterosexual male — in many ways these issues don’t affect me. I’ve gotten to know so many people for whom these issues are important, largely through the campus community.”

On that note, the Chronicle points out that “Robinson, 23, was elected in November as the youngest city council member in Berkeley history. He graduated from UC Berkeley last year and credits his college experience with broadening his perspective on gender issues.” That would be the same school that suffered bellyaches because of conservative speakers like Ben Shapiro. Robinson’s wokeness isn’t just foolish; it’s also homegrown.

Berkeley made mind-boggling decisions this week. And neither of them suggest much in the way of scientific literacy.

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