Banning Natural Gas Heating in Cold Manitoba Just a Dumb Idea

Commentary, Energy, Joseph Quesnel

Manitoba should not allow an IPCC report to scare our political leaders into alarmist behaviour.

Recently, some of Winnipeg’s chattering classes did just that by promoting the preposterous idea that the Pallister government should change zoning rules to prohibit builders of houses, office towers, and industrial buildings  putting gas-fired furnaces and water heaters in their buildings.

Their thinking, of course, leans on the old line that Manitoba has so much wind, sunshine, and of course, hydroelectricity that it can make this all work.

However, these folks appear to  have forgotten that the same issue was discussed previously at the City of Winnipeg back in March of this year. 

At that time, two city councillors proposed looking into limiting natural gas infrastructure in the city.  At that time, they called for looking into a timeline for halting the further expansion of natural gas infrastructure within the city of Winnipeg as soon as reasonably possible, a timeline for halting the use of natural gas in newly constructed areas of the city already serviced by natural gas infrastructure, and a plan and timeline for the city to exclude the use of natural gas in all tenders related to the construction of new municipal buildings.

The proposal was to limit natural gas by using geothermal energy much more aggressively. However, although the proposal brightened the day of some environmentalist groups, the folks at Manitoba Hydro immediately threw cold water onto the plan.  It was quite impractical and didn’t make sense to them.

“Manitoba Hydro does not currently have the generating capacity to support a mass switch from natural gas to electricity for home heating,” Hydro spokesperson Bruce Owen was reported to have said.

“For our grid to serve peak energy demand without natural gas, we would have to approximately double our current generating capacity, build extensive new transmission infrastructure, and significantly upgrade our existing distribution infrastructure.”

And this is just the City of Winnipeg. Think of the impracticality of including the entire province.

For a very cold province like ours, it is also very relevant to point out that with current electricity rates and natural gas prices, heating with natural gas is by far the cheapest option for those on lower and fixed incomes.

Experimenting with other heating options is a costly endeavour for most families, especially when cheaper and plentiful energy already exists in other forms. The British government recently backtracked from a recent proposal to ban natural gas boilers after it was discovered that even with government grants, the proposal was too costly for most homeowners.

Banning cheap energy to make way for trendy environmentalism is an activity for busybody leftist politicians. Given that most governments, have chosen to jump on the rather rickety climate change bandwagon, they need to find better ways to reduce our carbon footprint that don’t involve hurting families, especially in a cold climate like ours.

Finally, it is widely recognized by credible conservationists that natural gas is the ideal transition fuel for those seeking less carbon intensive sources. It is also a  way for Canada to reduce emissions internationally through our exports.  Natural gas is cheap, effective and low polluting energy – it is the wave of the future.

Manitoba climate campaigners need to back off this costly and dangerous idea and look towards realistic alternatives for meeting our environmental goals. 


Joseph Quesnel is a senior research associate with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.