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Banning gas stoves gets Americans’ blood boiling

Sometimes it’s the little things – the one indignity too many – that cause people to revolt. Banning new gas stoves, as a commissioner on the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has suggested, could be the diktat that finally brings Americans to rebel against the government’s incessant, autocratic and ultimately insulting intrusion into our daily lives.

The European Union found that out the hard way. Just weeks before the British went to the polls to vote on whether they wanted to remain in the EU, reports leaked that the unelected bureaucrats in Brussels planned to ban electric teakettles that were a staple of British kitchens, because they used too much electricity.

For Americans that might not sound like a big deal, but for the average Brit, already incensed that some 80 percent of new regulations were flowing from Brussels and not Parliament, it was the last straw. The proposed limits on small appliances would have meant that the time required to boil water would have increased from an average two minutes and 30 seconds to five minutes. For a country consuming 62 billion cups of tea each year, that was an affront.

Polling shifted in favor of Brexit, and indeed Great Britain shocked the world in June 2016 by voting to leave the EU.

In the U.S. today, we face similar irksome invasions of our homes and our freedom of choice. We already lost incandescent light bulbs; the government issued new specs for lighting last year that have effectively taken the familiar bulbs off the market.  

We also are forbidden to buy appliances like certain washer-dryers and items like toilets that actually work. People will spend almost anything to keep their old Maytag functioning, well aware that the mandated energy-saving replacements aren’t nearly as effective.

Now it seems some Washington bureaucrats want to get rid of gas stoves, the go-to appliance for anyone who takes cooking seriously, used in about 40 percent of American households.  

Though ostensibly stemming from concerns about children’s health, the idea of a ban almost certainly relates to climate policy as well. For the federal government to ban gas stoves, and generally to oppose natural gas as an energy source, is nuts. The reason that greenhouse emissions declined 20 percent in the United States between 2005 and 2020 is that we have replaced coal and oil with cleaner, abundant and cheap natural gas. Since 2005, we have doubled our production of natural gas, thanks to horizontal drilling and fracking, which has also reduced our reliance on imported oil.

Americans have benefited enormously from the switch from coal to natural gas; our air is cleaner, and the boom in natural gas production has kept energy costs low. Real electricity prices (adjusted for inflation) have held remarkably steady over the last two decades.

The proposed prohibition comes from the CPSC’s Richard Trumka Jr., who was nominated by President Biden to fill a CPSC seat in 2021.

Trumka has called gas cooking “a hidden hazard,” and said in an interview, “Any option is on the table. Products that can’t be made safe can be banned.” 

Bloomberg claims reports from organizations including the Institute for Policy Integrity provide backing for the ban on gas stoves. That group was founded and headed by Richard Revesz, a climate enthusiast whom Biden appointed to lead the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Bloomberg said Revesz “gives hope for rule-watchers looking ahead to more stringent environmental standards” and described him as the “most progressive rules czar.”

Bloomberg also cited a report from Consumer Reports from last October, which found that gas stoves did not give off “dangerous levels of carbon monoxide or particulate matter” or cause oxygen to “drop to unsafe levels” but did emit nitrogen dioxide in amounts that could be harmful. The consumer group recommended using proper ventilation to combat the issue.

Critics contend that the study upon which Trumka appears to be basing his recommendation contains numerous flaws, including that the agency is relying on “weak statistical associations” and that the research wasn’t done on children but rather stemmed from meta-data from the American Housing Survey.  

The Mayo Clinic explains on its website that “Childhood asthma causes aren’t fully understood,” but lists various possible contributors, including an inherited proclivity for the affliction, early lung infections, or exposure to tobacco smoke or other air pollution.” Asthma can be triggered by viral infections like the common cold, exposure to pollution, allergic reactions to pet dander, dust mites, pollen and mold, physical activity or changes in weather. Did the CPSC study control for all these elements?

Earlier, I described the ongoing mandates flowing from the government about the products we buy as insulting. They are. Assuming that Washington bureaucrats are in a better position to choose what kind of lightbulb you use or toilet you buy is offensive. Far better to give consumers the facts and let them decide whether driving an electric car aligns with their needs and values, and whether they want to give up eating steak to cut down on methane emissions.

Judging from the pushback on social media, I’m guessing telling people they can no longer buy gas stoves might just be a tipping point for Americans. Too bad we can’t “Brexit” from D.C.

Liz Peek is a former partner of major bracket Wall Street firm Wertheim & Company. Follow her on Twitter @lizpeek.

Tags Biden Consumer Product Safety Commission Gas stove ban Richard Trumka Richard Trumka Jr.
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