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  • Susan Russell

Gas Stoves Ignite Debate

The New Year finds Governor Hochul receiving pushback over a climate proposal that will phase out gas cooking stoves for new residential and commercial buildings by 2028. It would not apply to existing homes, and there may be exceptions for industries such as restaurants. Approximately 35% of Americans cook with gas- the remaining majority use electric stoves.

Alas, this topic has become the latest emotion-packed entry in the divisive culture wars that continue to afflict our communities with disinformation. This does a tremendous disservice to a topic worthy of examination, so let’s take a break from the melodrama for a moment and look at the issues involved in the debate:

Gas stove enthusiasts cite the virtues of cooking with gas such as the ease of controlling cooking temperatures and the instant heat once a stove is lit. Gas also enables cooks to char foods in a way that can be harder with electric or electromagnetic induction stoves. And despite being a fossil fuel, gas can be a more green-friendly fuel in areas where electricity is powered by coal. As the grid transitions to more renewable energy however, that balance will likely shift.

Some also cite the fear of not being able to eat during a power outage with an electric stove, but this reads as more of an inconvenience than actual harm. Americans have been using electric stoves for decades, despite the inconvenience of occasional power outages.

As for the downsides? One recent drawback of cooking with gas is the trend of rising fuel prices. Second, the industry’s infrastructure leaks methane which occurs during extraction, pipeline transport, and inside your home. When you burn methane to cook food, it turns into carbon dioxide. Unburned methane trickles out from loose fittings and faulty stovetop igniters even when the stove isn’t turned on. Every pound of methane released into the air is 30 to 86 times more effective at warming the planet than a pound of carbon dioxide. This makes gas appliances significant contributors to climate change.

Of additional concern, is the increasing body of peer reviewed research showing that gas stoves seriously affect indoor air quality- even more so if there’s no exhaust hood. They emit nitrogen dioxide which irritates the respiratory system, carbon monoxide which contributes to climate change, and benzene which causes cancer. These gases have been found to cause or inflame illness for young children and adults with asthma, emphysema, and other underlying health conditions. Currently, the American Public Health Association and American Medical Association are urging consumers to transition away from gas.

Even the most conservative studies from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Stanford University back these concerns. They report gas stoves add 25–33% nitrogen dioxide pollutants to indoor concentrations during summer. In winter, gas stoves emissions increase 35–39% because homes are less well ventilated. The same research found that gas stoves increased carbon monoxide (CO) by 30% in summer and 21% in winter.

Ban or no ban, those are compelling reasons for consumers to consider electric when shopping for a new appliance. The new federal Inflation Reduction Act will provide rebates of up to $840 on a new electric cooking appliance and up to an additional $500 to help cover the costs of fuel conversion.

In our home, we took the leap. We now enjoy the flexibility that a seamless glass top offers. It has multiple size burner options including a rapid boil option. We love how easy it is to clean ie. no more messy burner grates to contend with. For that “charred” effect we’ve found that a grill pan does the job nicely.

Change needn’t be viewed through the myopic lens of a culture war. Often, it’s a catalyst for improvement- in this case, for our health and the health of our planet.

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