Should the U.S. Ban Gas Stoves?
Should gas stoves have a place in the homes of the future?
It’s a question that set off a national firestorm Monday when Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) member Richard Trumka Jr. told Bloomberg that the commission was considering a ban on new gas stoves over pollution and health concerns.
“Any option is on the table. Products that can’t be made safe can be banned,” he said, as HuffPost reported.
The suggestion led to an immediate backlash, especially from Republican politicians.
“I’ll NEVER give up my gas stove,” Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) tweeted the next day. “If the maniacs in the White House come for my stove, they can pry it from my cold dead hands. COME AND TAKE IT!!
The language surrounding the outrage is misleading. First of all, any ban on gas stoves would not take away the stoves currently used by 40 million U.S. residents. Instead, it would target the installation of future stoves.
Secondly, both CPSC and President Biden have since clarified that a ban is not being considered.
“I want to set the record straight,” CSPC chair Alexander Hoehn-Saric tweeted Wednesday. “Contrary to recent media reports, I am not looking to ban gas stoves and the @USCPSC has no proceeding to do so.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also said that Biden did not back a ban, as the Independent reported.
“The president does not support banning gas stoves and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is independent, is not banning gas stoves,” Jean-Pierre said. “So I just want to be very clear on that.”
However, there are many valid concerns about the appliances. For one thing, renewable energy advocates argue that electric appliances are more climate friendly than gas because they can be run on clean energy as the grid decarbonizes, whereas gas-based appliances will always rely on fossil fuels. Further, a Stanford University study published last year found that gas stoves themselves were an even bigger contributor to the climate crisis than previously thought because they emit methane even when not in use.
For another, a growing body of research shows that gas stoves emit dangerous levels of indoor air pollution. That same Stanford University study found that using a gas stove without a hood or proper ventilation could expose you to nitrogen dioxide pollution at levels deemed unsafe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency outdoors. Another study published in Environmental Research and Public Health this month found that 12.7 percent of U.S. childhood asthma cases could be attributed to the use of a gas stove in the home.
Because of these and related concerns, the CPSC did say in mid-December it would weigh regulating air pollution from gas stoves, as The Washington Post reported.
“CPSC is researching gas emissions in stoves and exploring new ways to address health risks,” Hoehn-Saric said in his clarifying statement. “CPSC also is actively engaged in strengthening voluntary safety standards for gas stoves. And later this spring, we will be asking the public to provide us with information about gas stove emissions and potential solutions for reducing any associated risks. This is part of our product safety mission — learning about hazards and working to make products safer.”
Some municipalities and states have or are proposing to take things further. Cities including Seattle, New York and Los Angeles have limited new gas hookups in certain new buildings, The Washington Post reported. On Tuesday, New York Governor Kathy Hochul called for phasing out gas from new small buildings by 2025 and new large buildings from 2028.
Given the health and environmental drawbacks, why does gas arouse such a passionate defense? There is an idea that gas stoves are better for cooking, but some of this has been promoted by the natural gas industry. A 2021 investigation from Mother Jones looked at how the industry had spent since the 1930s to boost gas cooking, enlisting everyone from Marlene Dietrich in 1964 to Instagram influencers today. It has also backed laws in seven states to prohibit cleaner building codes that would rule out gas. Consumer Reports concluded that smooth electric stove tops actually heat faster and simmer better than gas ones on average. Gas ovens bake better, but electric ovens broil better, they found further.
However, one of the main arguments in favor of gas is that it is easier to control the temperature of the burner quickly by turning the flame up or down, and around 90 percent of professional chefs still use gas stoves, according to The Washington Post. That said, a new type of stove called an induction stove — which heats using the magnetic field between the burners and a pot of the right metal — is gaining culinary support.
“You can do so much more on induction than gas,” Evan Hennessey, who co-owns the restaurant Stages in Dover, New Hampshire, told The Washington Post. “The precision cooking allows us to do way more, without compromising the air quality in the kitchen for our guests or our staff.”
Bans aren’t the only way the government can encourage a shift from gas to electric, however. Currently, the Inflation Reduction Act offers rebates of up to $840 for an electric cooking appliance and up to $500 to help with the conversion from gas to electric, as Consumer Reports noted.