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Letters to the Editor

(No) Cooking With Gas


January 23, 2023

 

 

To the Editor:

I have been following the kerfuffle over whether gas stoves are health hazards that should be regulated or banned. Over 60% of New York homes have gas stoves, so it’s an issue that affects millions of people. New research showed that gas stoves release indoor pollutants that are as dangerous to human health as second-hand smoke, raise the incidence of childhood asthma, and that they also contribute to climate change.

You could argue that environmentalists are making a mountain out of a molehill. Don’t gas- and oil-powered furnaces in our buildings have a far, far greater impact on climate change? Don’t gasoline-burning automobiles spewing particulates have way more negative impact on asthma rates and climate? Why are we even talking about our beloved gas stoves?

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We’re talking about stoves because the organizing principle of climate policy is “electrify everything.” The idea is to stop burning things to produce energy or heat. It’s just chemistry: no matter what we burn – coal, oil, wood, natural gas (a k a fossil gas), “renewable natural gas” (from biomass), even hydrogen – combusting it releases carbon dioxide and the other greenhouse gases that drive climate change. Not to mention dangerous particulates and nitrous oxides.

The solution is to generate electricity without combustion. After building wind and solar farms at scale and upgrading our grid accordingly, we can use this clean electricity to power everything we used to run with fossil fuels – including our stoves. It’s a big goal and a long-term process.

But New York has clean energy goals enshrined in our 2019 climate law. The law mandates that 70% of our electricity generation be zero-emission by 2030, and 100% by 2040.  Fulfilling those mandates requires a massive build-out of land-based wind and solar installations and offshore wind farms. It’s happening, but there are obstacles: local opposition, inflation, permitting delays, and, of course, lobbying by the fossil-fuel industry.

There is also the All-Electric Building Act, which Gov. Hochul has endorsed and the fossil fuel industry abhors. This proposed law would prohibit fossil fuel hookups, including gas stoves, in new construction. New homes would have electric heat pumps for heating and cooling and electric or induction stoves for cooking. If you want to get ahead of the game, the Federal government will now give you very generous tax credits to replace any of your fossil-fuel-burning appliances with electric ones, buy an electric car or install solar panels on your home.

To reprise an old ad slogan, now you’re cooking with gas. Will gas stoves be banned in New York, say, by 2035? New York has already banned the sale of new gas-powered vehicles after that date. Will the big box stores in New York sell only electric stoves then? Hopefully before then, nobody will want gas stoves anyway.

Laura Burkhardt

Sleepy Hollow

The writer is a retired software engineer, currently working on environmental issues with Sierra Club. Her special interest is an electric grid powered by 100% renewable energy, especially small-scale solar installations on built environments.
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