Give it to me straight. Is my gas stove killing the planet ... and me?

·4 min read

Not to brag — OK, maybe I’m bragging just a little — but there’s not a whole lot I won’t do to reduce my carbon footprint.

Swear off fast fashion? No problem.

Drive an EV? Sure.

Stick to a vegetarian diet (except for my pets)? You betcha.

Trade in my gas stove for an electric model?

Sorry, but that’s a bridge way too far ... for the time being, anyway.

Gas stoves are magical.

They can heat your tortillas on an open flame (just watch your fingers when you flip them).

They can char chili peppers.

And they are great for roasting marshmallows — sort of like having a mini-campfire right in your kitchen.

But to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, an increasing number of cities in California are banning or discouraging gas appliances — including stoves — in new construction.

The city of Sacramento passed an ordinance last year that requires new low-rise buildings, defined as three stories or fewer, to be all-electric starting in 2023. The ban on gas appliances will apply to all new buildings in 2026, though there are exceptions, including one for restaurants.

San Luis Obispo considered a similar ban, but in the end took steps to encourage — rather than mandate — that new buildings be all-electric.

Keep your hands off my gas!

Aside from the natural gas industry folks — who have engaged in some hardball tactics — some of the biggest push-back to this move to electrify California buildings has come from lovers of gas stoves, like me.

True, no one is threatening to break down our doors and haul away our gas stoves, but pressure could build over time, right?

Just look at the city of Berkeley. Not only has it banned natural gas in new buildings, it also has an “electrification strategy” for existing buildings.

While I would have no problem switching out my gas water heater or furnace — except maybe for the cost — cooktops are another matter. I’ve used an electric stove before, and I’m not a fan.

Lately, though, it’s been getting harder and harder to ignore harrowing headlines like these:

Give up your gas stove to save the planet? Banning gas is the next climate push” (NPR)

Your gas stove is polluting your own home. Go electric” (The Guardian)

Kill your gas stove” (The Atlantic)

Here’s the gist of those stories: Natural gas, in general, is bad for the planet. And gas stoves, in particular, have been linked to higher rates of indoor pollution and a greater risk of childhood asthma.

That’s sobering stuff, especially for families with young children.

Don’t panic yet

But then I stumbled across a New York Times piece with this reassuring title: “Why you don’t need to ditch your gas stove (yet).“

Author Liam McCabe advises that owners of gas stoves “don’t actually need to freak out.”

One reason: The amount of natural gas we use in cooking is just a fraction of what we use to heat our homes and our water, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration. (Unfortunately, the data they use is from 2015. Time for an update, EIA.)

So if we want to reduce the use of natural gas for the sake of the environment, the logical response is to switch out gas furnaces and water heaters first, right?

As far as health goes, there are ways to reduce the the risk posed by indoor pollution.

“If your kitchen is ventilated, ideally with a range hood that can exhaust air outside of your home, the risk of respiratory illness from gas cooking plummets,” McCabe writes.

Except, not everyone is great about turning on their vents.

I do only when I burn something.

That’s bad, according to experts, who advise running the vent whenever you cook, and also recommend opening a window.

What’s more, the California Energy Commission has proposed an update of building energy efficiency standards to increase ventilation in fans over gas cooktops.

It’s also proposed that all new homes be electric-ready, meaning they could easily be converted from gas to electric.

If approved by the Building Standards Commission, the new energy efficiency standards will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023.

In the meantime, I’m still cooking with gas — but with the vent on and the kitchen window open.

And I’m checking out those new induction cooktops that use electromagnetism, which sounds super sciency.

They’re supposed to be the next big thing in cooking — and if they can help save the planet, why not at least give them a shot?

I can live without making s’mores on my stove.

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