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Gas-stove ban: U.S. moves closer to action as a consumer agency turns up its scrutiny

The U.S. as a whole could be edging nearer to a ban on gas stoves, if the interest of a federal consumer safety agency is any indication.The agency is reviewing gas stoves and range tops, opening a comment period for now, a member of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission told Bloomberg News in a


The U.S. as a whole could be edging nearer to a ban on gas stoves, if the interest of a federal consumer safety agency is any indication.

The agency is reviewing gas stoves and range tops, opening a comment period for now, a member of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission told Bloomberg News in a recent interview. Attention on these appliances has increased in the wake of new studies of respiratory and certain cancer risks linked to their use, as well as research on their contribution to global warming from the greenhouse gases that the combustion of natural gas NG00, -0.66% and other fossil fuels releases into the atmosphere.

Gas appliances are “a hidden hazard,” CPSC commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. said in the interview. “Any option is on the table. Products that can’t be made safe can be banned.” 

He said the agency could also consider other actions, including setting standards on emissions from the appliances, or take no action at all.

Trumka later tweeted: “To be clear, CPSC isn’t coming for anyone’s gas stoves. Regulations apply to new products. For Americans who CHOOSE to switch from gas to electric, there is support available – Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes a $840 rebate.” Read more on the IRA.

Still, his position sparked a social media response, including from Sen. Joe Manchin, an energy-state Democrat. “The federal government has no business telling American families how to cook their dinner. I can tell you the last thing that would ever leave my house is the gas stove that we cook on,” Manchin tweeted.

Some states including California and New York have already limited the use of gas stove tops and ovens. For now, initiatives mostly target gas appliances in new construction, with older stoves grandfathered in.

The impact is significant: Over one-third of U.S. households — more than 40 million homes — cook with gas.

Gas stoves, particularly those that are not well ventilated — or for which homeowners do not consistently use ventilation — emit air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter into the home at levels the Environmental Protection Agency and World Health Organization have said are unsafe and that are linked to respiratory illness, including asthma, cardiovascular problems, cancer and other health conditions. That’s according to reports by groups such as the Institute for Policy Integrity and the American Chemical Society. 

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And just last month, peer-reviewed research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that more than 12% of current childhood asthma cases in the U.S. can be attributed to the use of gas stoves.

That report had the backing of RMI (formerly the Rocky Mountain Institute) and Rewiring America, two groups that are pushing for the conversion of gas to electric.

The American Gas Association, the trade group representing gas utilities, has said that what it believes is a more robust study has not found a link between childhood asthma and gas stoves.

“According to the [2013] study Cooking Fuels and Prevalence of Asthma: A Global Analysis of Phase Three of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC), which analyzed 512,707 primary- and secondary-school children from 108 centers in 47 countries, there is ‘no evidence of an association between the use of gas as a cooking fuel and either asthma symptoms or asthma diagnosis,’” said Richard Meyer, AGA’s vice president of energy markets, analysis and standards.

“It is not clear why this study was excluded from the recent RMI/Rewiring America paper,” he added.

Yet another study suggested that natural gas for cooking contains low concentrations of several pollutants and chemicals linked to select cancers. That study, conducted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and published last year in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, linked both the delivery and use of natural gas to possible consequences for public health and climate change.

Some opinion studies have shown a reluctance among Americans — even those who broadly favor a stronger government response to global warming — to give up their gas stoves.

One study of 1,000 people by a center-right energy-policy group found more than half of the Americans polled oppose banning natural gas for cooking or heating uses in the construction of new family homes. And when those polled were told that a natural-gas ban “could result in energy shortages and rising prices,” their opposition to the ban jumped to 71%.

Don’t miss: The bitter breakup with gas stoves is getting closer — here’s another reason why

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The CPSC’s Trumka, who has a background on Capitol Hill guiding legislation on toxic heavy metals in baby food and the health hazards of e-cigarettes, called the assumption that home and professional cooks have better temperature control with gas stoves than with their modern electric counterparts “a carefully manicured myth.”

Consumer Reports has dedicated new reviews to the potential health and safety advantages as well as the cooking performance and relative costs of electric ranges and stoves over gas options.

Paul Hope, who writes about appliances for Consumer Reports, has said that switching from a gas stove to an electric range for his own home renovation was an easy one.

“I’ve always preferred cooking on a gas range, but I knew electric and induction ranges had gotten a lot better over the years and that they’re way better for the environment,” Hope said.

With funding from Congress, the Inflation Reduction Act means homeowners can take advantage of up to $14,000 in rebates and tax credits for making energy-efficient upgrades, including in some cases switching out gas for electric. How much you’ll be able to get will depend on how much you earn, where you live and what improvements you make.

Attention on building practices that favor electric appliances and heat pumps has also grown since the U.S., under the leadership of Joe Biden, and its developing-world counterparts pledged to cut emissions by 50% across the economy by 2030, on the way to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Alongside its direct use in homes and businesses, natural gas has been a strong replacement for higher-polluting coal in powering the U.S. electric grid. The gas industry has also worked to limit leaks along pipelines and at other points in the gas infrastructure, and it argues that the relative low cost and availability of gas appliances means they aren’t the best area to target when it comes to cutting emissions.

Some lawmakers disagree and weighed in with a December letter asking the CPSC to consider requiring warning labels, range hoods and performance standards for stoves and cooktops. Lawmakers including Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia, both Democrats, urged action and called gas-stove emissions a “cumulative burden” on Black, Latino and low-income households that disproportionately experience air pollution. 

It’s an area of research that is likely to remain at the forefront.

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An earlier study, from Stanford University, suggested that emissions from gas stoves in U.S. homes have the same climate-warming impact as that of half a million gasoline-powered cars. That includes the shorter-lasting but more-potent methane, in addition to carbon dioxide. Fossil-fuel combustion for energy accounts for about 74% of total Earth-warming U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions, the Energy Information Agency says.

Local and regional governments have been moving faster than federal officials.

New York City passed a law that prohibits the combustion of fossil fuels, namely gas, for cooking and heating in select new buildings. The ban will apply to new structures under seven stories tall starting in 2024 and to larger buildings starting in 2027. New York state is considering its own bill.

In 2019, Berkeley, Calif., became the first city in the U.S. to ban gas hookups in new construction. Now at least 42 cities in California, including San Francisco and San Jose, have acted to limit gas in new buildings. Salt Lake City and Denver have also made plans to move toward electrification.

And in the most aggressive example yet, Ithaca, the upstate New York city of about 30,000 that’s best known for Cornell University and the natural beauty of its gorges, says it will be the first in the country to try to decarbonize every last one of its buildings by switching to electric power and banning natural-gas heating and appliances.

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