Myths vs. Facts: Electrification and Carbon Emissions

The myths surrounding electrification do not hold up to serious scrutiny.

In the quest for a “greener” future, politicians are increasingly mythologizing electrification as a solution to combat climate emissions. While they tout electrifying heating systems as a significant step towards reducing carbon emissions over traditional natural gas utilities, the truth is more complex than it seems. Here are three myths and facts about electrification that, taken individually and together, undermine the notion that electrification is beneficial to the environment.

Myth #1: Electrification decreases overall carbon emissions.

Fact: While electric heating systems produce zero emissions at the point of use, the source of the electricity can increase emissions greatly.

In places powered by traditional fossil fuel-based power plants – which is most of the country – generating electricity, sending it through the grid, and then converting it back into heat does not decrease overall emissions. In fact, it increases them significantly.

When evaluating the environmental impact of heating systems, it’s essential to consider the lifecycle emissions. This includes not only the emissions during operation, but also those associated with the production and disposal of equipment.

For natural gas, this means creating and laying pipes to homes, which can be used for decades without replacement. Meanwhile, electrification involves using energy-intensive manufacturing, which can offset emissions reductions (if there even are any, considering how they are powered) achieved during operation.

Myth #2: America is ready for a transition to full electrification.

Fact: America’s power grid will not be ready for full electrification within the next several decades.

With power demands already increasing, transitioning to electrification only adds to the strain on our power grid. In regions where electricity grids are already strained, increased demand from electric heating necessitates the construction of new power plants and grid upgrades.

Additionally, upgrading America’s infrastructure is not an emission-free exercise. In order to increase capacity, utilities need to acquire copper wire, which is mined using heavy equipment powered almost exclusively by diesel, and large trees to deal with the weight increases from stringing more and heavier lines. Rights of way, especially in rural areas, are increasingly expanded, taking out plants that once converted carbon dioxide to oxygen.

Without massive permitting reform and an enormous investment in new generation and transmission capability, demand will quickly outstrip available supply. The math here simply does not add up.

Myth #3: “Green energy” can power America’s transition to electrification.

Fact: Electrification coupled with solar and wind is not the magic bullet proponents claim it is in terms of reducing emissions.

Even in areas that produce significant amounts of electricity from solar and wind farms, the non-dispatchable nature of these generation technologies creates fluctuations in production throughout the day. When the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing, electrified heat will have to rely on transmissions from nuclear or fossil fuel plants. In other words,

These generation technologies often fail when people will need heat most, specifically extreme weather events. Solar and wind often fail in freezing temperatures when there is snow, which is when electrical demand will be highest. At the end of the day, this is a safety issue.


The myths surrounding electrification do not hold up to serious scrutiny. By arbitrarily restricting and discouraging other methods of home and water heating, policymakers not only cause an increase in carbon emissions but significantly jeopardize the health and safety of their constituents. By taking a holistic approach and considering the impact of the lifecycle of heating systems, elected officials can make informed decisions that contribute to a more prosperous and safe energy future.

In Depth: Energy

It is difficult – and perhaps even impossible – to overstate the relationship between readily available access to safe, affordable and reliable energy and individual prosperity and economic wellbeing. This is because energy is an input to virtually everything we produce, consume and enjoy in society. Think for a minute…

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