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Why US Regulators Are Considering a Ban on Gas Stoves – Bloomberg

Natural gas burns on a stove top.Photographer: Suzanne Plunkett/Bloomberg
Natural gas burns on a stove top.(Suzanne Plunkett/Bloomberg)

Ari Natter, Bloomberg

WASHINGTON
EnergiesNet.com 01 13 2023

Gas burning stoves are getting a second look not just from groups concerned about their contribution to global warming but from US regulators, who are raising concerns about health hazards as well. Gas ranges have been barred or discouraged in new buildings through regulations adopted by about 50 cities and towns in California, amid broader prohibitions across the nation on new natural gas hookups. Now the possibility of a nationwide ban on gas stoves has been broached by a commissioner for the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. 

1. What are the health concerns?

Natural gas stoves emit air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter at levels the US Environmental Protection Agency and World Health Organization have said are unsafe and linked to respiratory illness, cardiovascular problems, cancer and other health conditions, according to reports by groups including the Institute for Policy Integrity and the American Chemical Society. Consumer Reports, in October, urged consumers planning to buy a new range to consider going electric after tests conducted by the group found gas stoves emit high levels of nitrogen oxide gases, which can irritate airways. And peer-reviewed research published in December in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that more than 12% of current childhood asthma cases in the US can be attributed to gas stove use.

2. What are the climate concerns? 

The gas burned on stoves produces carbon dioxide, which warms the atmosphere. But what’s perhaps more significant is that even when they’re not in use, gas stoves leak methane, according to a Stanford University study published in 2022. It estimated that nationwide methane emissions from the appliances each year have the same global-warming potential as about 500,000 cars. Methane, the main component of natural gas, has more than 80 times the global-warming potential of carbon dioxide for the first 20 years after it’s released into the atmosphere. There are also broader concerns about methane leaks during the extraction and transportation of natural gas. 

3. What’s been the regulatory response? 

The Consumer Product Safety Commission plans to seek public comment on the issue later this winter. Besides barring the manufacture or import of gas stoves, options include setting standards on emissions from the appliances, Richard Trumka Jr., the agency commissioner who raised the prospect of a ban, said in an interview. Other possibilities that US lawmakers have urged the agency to consider include requiring warning labels, range hoods and performance standards. Across the country, nearly 100 cities and counties have adopted policies that require or encourage a move away from buildings powered by fossil fuels, according to a tally by RMI, a Colorado-based non-profit that works to accelerate the transition to carbon-free energy. The New York City Council voted in 2021 to ban natural gas hookups in new buildings smaller than seven stories by the end of this year. New York Governor Kathy Hochul has proposed making her state the first in the US to ban natural gas heating and appliances in new buildings. California is weighing its own statewide proposal that would take effect in 2030.

4. Has there been pushback?

Yes. The growing movement to restrict both natural gas appliances and the use of gas in buildings overall is being met with alarm from suppliers of the fuel, who are fighting back with a lobbying push. Their efforts, which include the use of front groups, have contributed to the passage of laws in 21 states barring local governments from limiting fossil fuel use in buildings. The American Gas Association challenged the findings on health hazards from gas stoves, citing a peer-reviewed study published in 2013 that found no evidence of an association between using gas as a cooking fuel and asthma. Industry spokespeople and argued that banning gas stoves would drive up costs for homeowners and restaurants with little environmental gain. Restaurants have also opposed restrictions. The California Restaurant Association sued Berkeley, California, to try to stop the city’s natural gas ban, arguing that restaurants rely on natural gas as an affordable fuel for cooking, baking, heating and power. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, which represents gas range manufacturers, says that cooking produces emissions and harmful byproducts no matter what kind of stove is used and what’s important is that people ventilate their kitchens.

The Reference Shelf

• A related QuickTakes on methane, the energy transition.

• The Consumer Reports article on the health risks of gas stoves.

• The article connecting asthma cases to gas stoves in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

bloomberg.com 01 11 2023

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