After Backlash Against Proposed Gas Stove Ban, Progressives Are Gaslighting America
Progressives might not be coming for your existing stove, but they are trying to stop any new installations.
After my column last week about environmentalists' apparent desire to make our lives miserable as they try to improve the environment, I heard from progressives who accused me of jumping on the Fox News bandwagon. That's because I pointed to their latest crusade to highlight the supposed danger of natural-gas stoves.
"I'd laugh my a** off about all the dipsticks freaking out about the imaginary war on gas stoves, but sadly, it's an indication of just how dumb and easily led so many people are," wrote one former journalist on Twitter. That echoed a common theme: conservatives are engaged in their latest unsubstantiated freak-out regarding some "reasonable" policy.
Few regular readers could accuse me of jumping on right-wing bandwagons. Despite some overstatement and inaccurate reporting—and try to find any issue that doesn't garner hysteria on social media—the conservatives are right on point. Climate warriors are indeed trying to ban gas stoves, although they are smart enough to offer a patina of deniability.
Let's recap. The Consumer Product Safety Commission, the federal agency charged with protecting the public from unsafe products, declared its intention to evaluate gas-stove emissions. "Research indicates that emissions from gas stoves can be hazardous," the agency explained. Although beloved by cooks, gas stoves allegedly erode indoor air quality and contribute to asthma problems.
As that journalist noted in a rebuttal to my dismissive tweet, "Oooooh, research. Scary! Who could want more knowledge, after all? I assume you oppose scientific research because you did your own?" No, I have not commissioned my own studies on gas-stove emissions, but I have been studying the gaseous emissions from environmentalists and regulators my entire career and can draw some conclusions.
For starters, government efforts to ban stuff always start with a study. Government agencies don't simply announce a ban on a popular item—whether gas stoves, gas-powered lawnmowers, or internal-combustion-engine vehicles. They start with a premise (this item is dangerous) and then study the Very Serious Issue. Ideologically aligned interests produce studies with predictable results.
In response to the brouhaha, CPSC Chairman Alexander Hoehn-Saric issued a statement assuring Americans that, "I am not looking to ban gas stoves and the CPSC has no proceeding to do so." But that's a bit disingenuous. CPSC has been targeting gas stoves for months—and it's become a cause du jour among many local officials.
And remember how this got started. CPSC commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. said in an interview that, "(T)his is a hidden hazard. Any option is on the table. Products that can't be made safe can be banned." Imagine the public's stupidity for taking seriously the words of a top official at an agency that banned lawn darts and ordered their immediate destruction.
If this gas-stove emissions panic came in a vacuum, one might still harangue Republicans for, as one writer put it, thrusting "gas stoves into the culture wars." Some conservatives responded in an unserious manner, including U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R–Ohio) who tweeted: "God. Guns. Gas stoves." Nevertheless, the Right's instincts are correct. Progressives might not be coming for your existing stove, but they are trying to stop any new installations.
New York City in 2021 passed a ban on new natural-gas stoves (and other gas-fired appliances) in new buildings. It applies to those under seven stories next year and to taller buildings in four years. In 2019, Berkeley was the first U.S. city to impose a similar ban on new construction.
This year, Los Angeles became the largest city in the United States to implement a gas ban. "Over 60 cities and counties across the state are considering policies to support all-electric new construction," the Sierra Club reported (gleefully) in 2021. It's no surprise federal bureaucrats are getting in on the action.
This is how the game works. It is an orchestrated effort driven by climate concerns. Environmentalists want to move toward a renewable electric grid and away from fossil fuels. Natural gas is a fossil fuel. "Natural gas bans are new front in effort to curb emissions," touted one news headline. What better way to build support for that policy than scare people about the dangers of gas cooking?
My goal isn't to engage in a deep debate about the latest research. As with all "trust the science" questions, however, one finds differing informed opinions. The CPSC is relying on one compilation of research published by an environmental group that blames stoves for 12 percent of U.S. childhood asthma cases.
Critics, however, claim the study ignored prominent international research showing no asthma link and didn't address other environmental factors that may have caused the ailment. If indoor air quality were the real issue, then perhaps regulators could insist on proper stove venting—but practical solutions are less interesting than panics.
Do your own evaluation, but don't let anyone gaslight you into thinking this crusade is imaginary.
This column was first published in The Orange County Register.