Richard Trumka Jr., a Biden appointee to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, decided early last week that natural gas stoves posed a “hidden hazard” and that banning natural gas stoves was under consideration.
Not surprisingly, he received some well-deserved resistance and, like everyone caught telling a truth they shouldn’t have told, tried his best to minimize his own agenda. He tweeted: “To be clear, CPSC isn’t coming for anyone’s gas stoves. Regulations apply to new products.”
Whoa, that was close. Team Biden will only prohibit you from making your own decisions about what kind of kitchen appliances you can have in the future. They won’t actually kick in your door and cart away your stove right now, so that’s probably OK, right?
Unfortunately, the effort to ban all natural gas appliances — stoves, water heaters, furnaces — is very much a real thing. It is a deliberate campaign driven by special interest groups opposed to affordable, reliable fuels, and it routinely uses shady research to allege health effects from the use of natural gas appliances.
In reality, of course, there is broad consensus that natural gas appliances are safe.
For instance, in the largest and most complete analysis examining any potential link between gas appliances and childhood asthma to date, scientists found “no evidence of an association between the use of gas as a cooking fuel and either asthma symptoms or asthma diagnosis.”
Similarly, a study tracked the severity and symptoms of asthma among adults from 2018 through the COVID-19 pandemic and found that despite the increased time spent indoors at home, asthmatics experienced a 40% decrease in their symptoms. Those findings suggest that the home environment was safe and healthy, and it is likely that factors outside the home have an outsized impact on asthma symptoms.
If gas appliances were a credible risk of worsening asthma symptoms, spending more time indoors in the proximity of gas appliances would lead to an increase in symptoms, not a decrease.
Maybe you’d rather hear from the EPA. The Environmental Protection Agency’s page on indoor air quality takes a hard pass on the question of natural gas appliances. It simply and prudently encourages proper ventilation.
Perhaps you prefer something from academia. A UCLA study concluded: “We do not claim that the transition to electric appliances would make a substantial difference in terms of emissions from cooking oils and food.”
Or maybe you’re a fan of the Department of Energy. A DOE-sponsored study showed that the emission rates from the act of cooking itself are considerably greater than what is generated by natural gas stoves. For example, cooking something like olive oil generates over 11 times more emissions than a gas stove.
That’s consistent with other studies that have consistently found that the cooking itself, regardless of whether electric or gas appliances are used, is the chief source of emissions in the home.
Moreover, the research linking natural gas stoves to health risks has some flaws.
In a study by Stanford University, researchers wrapped a kitchen in plastic sheets, preventing any air exchange, and used a ductless, recirculating range hood for ventilation to conclude that natural gas use in a sealed, unventilated space would harm air quality. It is not clear how many people wrap their entire kitchen in plastic before starting to cook.
In May, researchers with Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy published a study that cited the presence of benzene and “risky chemicals.” The authors admitted in a follow-up webinar that the study couldn’t definitively say what the health effects might be, because they didn’t study actual exposure. Oops.
A recent study from researchers at the green nonprofit RMI, which is leading the campaign to ban gas stoves (no conflict there), claims there are 357 studies on indoor air quality. But their analysis references only 27, and they do not identify all of the studies they selected, let alone explain why the ones they picked are more representative than the 330 or so that they excluded.
Why should you care about any of this? Well, according to the Department of Energy, electricity is nearly four times as expensive as natural gas on a per-unit of energy basis, and a recent survey in the Pacific Northwest concluded that more than 80% of homebuyers prefer homes with natural gas rather than all-electric equipment.
Finally, for those who care about such things, according to the American Gas Association, when you consider the entire fuel cycle, households with natural gas appliances produce 37% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than homes with all-electric appliances.
In this instance, as in so many others, don’t let anyone — especially the government — tell you what kinds of things you can buy.
• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, co-hosts “The Unregulated Podcast.” He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.