Modern Living: Cool Pool Crisis

Orange groves have been obliterated by freeways. Pacific sunsets are gone, curtained by smog. Up-and-away mobility has fallen prey to traffic congestion. Now what many consider the ultimate blow to California's vaunted good life has been delivered by the state's Public Utilities Commission, which has ruled that after April 1 it will be unlawful to heat newly built swimming pools with natural gas—the only practical way to warm them.

The ruling is comparable to a decree by a Roman emperor that participants in orgies must be fully clothed at all times. Pool...