A Fiery Debate: Should Gas Stoves be Banned?🔥🤔
The Intersection of Health and Energy Efficiency: How a Gas Stove Ban Could Improve Both
In recent news, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission is considering a ban on gas stoves due to the growing concern about the harmful pollutants they emit. A study shows that 12% of childhood asthma cases are due to these stoves. This ban is a no-brainer from an energy-efficiency and health perspective, but several factors make this a hard ban to pass.
Using the framework suggested in this post on energy efficiency, we can investigate the different perspectives that explain the backlash such a move is garnering. This framework is simplified here:
Government policies and initiatives
Individually, a gas stove ban would require many people to switch to electric or induction stoves. This doesn’t mean your city will rip out everyone’s stoves, but as the stoves die, they’ll be replaced with electric or induction ones. Gas stoves are in about 40 million homes — or about 35% of homes in the US, so plenty of people will be affected in the coming years. While this is a step towards transitioning off natural gas entirely, it could pose a financial burden for some households making it challenging to replace their stoves without government support. Costs could include the new appliance and changes to energy bills. Additionally, some people and businesses might find switching to a new type of stove challenging. Several cultures find cooking over open flames essential to their cuisine, with Chinese and Korean chefs worried that a ban might alter how they cook; they would potentially need to change cooking techniques and buy new equipment. All these individual and cultural factors play a role in the societal buy-in of making appliance upgrades.
Technologically, other and better options exist. Induction stoves are far more energy efficient (up to 40% more) than gas stoves because they deliver energy directly to heating the food (meaning less excess heat). On top of this, they don’t worsen the air quality, which is better for our health. Alternative measures, such as providing ventilation (either from a range hood, fan, or air filter), exist to decrease asthma risk and improve air quality.
Politically, a ban on gas stoves would require government support to provide financial assistance to help households switch to induction stoves. Currently, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) provides rebates of up to $840 to purchase a new electric stove and up to $500 to cover the cost of switching. However, with the President and gas companies heavily against it, such a ban will not happen easily. Los Angeles City Council, like other cities, has voted to ban most gas appliances in new homes, but cities will need to do more about stoves in existing buildings and provide information and support for people to upgrade at the right time.
While a gas stove ban could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality, it is important to understand that gas stoves are not the only gas appliance in homes. In fact, the most indoor pollution from gas appliances comes from water heaters and furnaces (see the image below).
Ultimately, we need policies that induce a systemic change — transitioning entirely off natural gas in our buildings. The sustainable future we create will be better for our health and energy efficiency.
When you see news like this, you can intentionally think about the impacts at the individual level and the technological and governmental requirements necessary to bring it to fruition. Finally, think about it at the large scale — does such an act help us address climate change, and can it improve our health? It’s important to bring up these discussions in your circles — friend groups, roommates, and co-workers!