Gas or No?
The culture war in the kitchen
If you’re part of the population that reads the New York Times, goes on Twitter, or even watches Fox News, you’ve no doubt seen that gas stoves are having (or not having) their moment. I’ll say this, it was not on my 2023 bingo card.
Ever since 2021, when I read this Mother Jones piece on fossil fuel companies pushing gas stoves as a way to extend the life of the industry, I have been aware that there were issues. I would say that that article stands out to me as the moment that gas stove research went mainstream.
Then, this week happened. The Atlantic has a great recap. Basically, in December, a scientific paper came out about the public health risk of gas stoves. It estimated that 12.7% of childhood asthma in the United States was attributable to gas stoves. Then, this week a member of the Consumer Product Safety Commission brought up the possibility of banning gas stoves. Outraged Republicans responded with “from my cold dead hands” memes.
Martin Heinrich had my favorite Twitter take on the situation. I’m always one for some free food after all.
So, what’s the deal? First off, I would make the point that climate activists have a lot to gain from getting gas stoves out of homes. Not only are they a contributor to climate change, but they are one of the appliances that keep us putting gas hookups in homes, which prolongs the life of the industry. NPR calls them a gateway appliance. Some cities are already banning gas hookups in new buildings for this reason. Second, it seems that there is a public health impact to gas stoves, though, it is not clear how much. Today, the New York Times Climate Forward newsletter recounted the disagreements between public health researchers and economist Emily Oster, who believes that the research methods used were flawed. At the very least, though, we know that burning methane gas releases harmful pollutants. While you may not get sick, scientists agree that the potential is real. Third, we know that induction stovetops are a real alternative!
The culture war lives on, though. I remain hopeful that this whole episode will actually increase awareness of induction stovetops and lead to their adoption. However, I fear the way that we increasingly live in two different realities — particularly on climate issues. So quickly, things can go from a policy discussion to a political one. And once it gets there, all bets are off.