PUBLISHED: January 18, 2023, at 8:46 a.m. | UPDATED: January 18, 2023, at 9:55 a.m.
“Now we’re cooking with gas” is an old phrase your grandparents might have used to mark progress. It came about as gas stoves replaced wood-burning stoves. Now there are rumbles the federal government is seeking to ban gas stoves, ostensibly in the name of progress. Last week, Bloomberg reported, Richard Trumka Jr., a commissioner on the Consumer Product Safety Commission, was considering banning gas stoves, saying such a ban was “on the table.” When Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and other politicians pushed back on the idea of banning gas stoves, the regulators rushed to quell the idea a ban is in the books. Alexander Hoehn-Saric, chair of the commission, put out a statement saying, “Research indicates that emissions from gas stoves can be hazardous, and the CPSC is looking for ways to reduce related indoor air quality hazards. But to be clear, I am not looking to ban gas stoves and the CPSC has no proceeding to do so.” Continue watching Republicans must avoid repeating history with the federal budget after the ad But let’s not be naive, this is how all bans start. It’s not like the effort to scrutinize gas stoves just started a week ago. For years, there’s been a growing push, especially here in California, to curtail the use of natural gas. The Sierra Club reported in December of California, “So far, 69 cities/counties … have adopted building codes to reduce their reliance on gas.” Last June, the city of Los Angeles banned most natural-gas appliances in new homes. The ban “puts us in line with climate leaders across the country,” lead proponent of that change, Councilmember Nithya Raman, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, told the Los Angeles Times last year. This speaks to the range of motivations for restrictions on gas stoves from the perspective of regulators and progressives. Some are motivated by concerns over potential health hazards, others by green dreams of a post-fossil fuel world. Naturally, if gas stoves are slowly killing us all, that would be a problem. But that’s not the state of things. Amid a recent wave of concern over the possible link between asthma and gas stoves, Brown University economist Emily Oster poured over the research in a commentary for Slate. Her conclusion? “I think the evidence suggesting this factor is responsible for a sizable share of asthma in kids is probably overstated,” she wrote. “The papers on this are mixed; the cross-sectional relationship at the state level is nonexistent.”
Coupled with the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s reluctance to rush into anything besides continuing to develop ways to reduce the potential hazards of gas stoves, policymakers and pundits should hold off on panicking and await further research on what the facts are. In the meantime, there are practical steps people can take to reduce the risk of harm from gas stoves, including ventilating their kitchen (as simple as opening their windows), using air purifiers and, if they wish, voluntarily buying electric or induction stoves if they can afford to do so. In sum, the federal government should butt out of Americans’ stove choices. We don’t need to allow hysterical pundits and overreaching regulators to dictate the terms of every discussion. That would be real progress.