Natural gas is coming under fire. Again. Localities across the U.S. are pursuing bans on natural gas appliances under the banner of fighting climate change and meeting the Biden administration’s lofty aspirations of net-zero emissions.
Most recently, the San Francisco Bay Area Air Quality Management District voted to adopt new rules that phase out certain natural gas water heaters and furnaces by 2031.
According to the air quality district’s own estimates, switching to an electric furnace would cost consumers over $8,000 on average, and the switch to electric water heaters would cost an average of nearly $3,000.
But water heaters and furnaces aren’t the only natural gas appliances feeling the heat. Natural gas stoves are also on the docket.
After the media backlash surrounding the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s purported plans to ban natural gas stoves, the commission now is following through on its promise to research “gas emissions in stoves and [explore] new ways to address health risks” by approving a request for information on gas stove hazards and potential solutions.
The commission’s March 1 notice specifies: “If technologies to improve the performance of gas stoves are not commercially viable or not demonstrated to be safe, what options remain?”
That reads like the perfect setup for a gas stove ban, or costly regulations that would make gas stoves less affordable, especially when coupled with the Energy Department’s recently proposed energy efficiency standards for conventional cooking appliances.
Unsurprisingly, the Consumer Product Safety Commission spends considerable time in its notice vilifying gas stoves and touting the so-called benefits of electrification. For example, the announcement highlights rebates of up to $840 to purchase electric stoves, made available by President Joe Biden’s costly, so-called Inflation Reduction Act.
But what about the benefits of natural gas stoves that the commission so conveniently ignores?
For starters, although the commission relies only on its own research regarding health risks associated with gas stoves (which certainly could present the appearance of a conflict of interest), natural gas actually is considered a relatively clean source of energy.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration notes that “burning natural gas for energy results in fewer emissions of nearly all types of air pollutants and carbon dioxide than burning coal or petroleum products to produce an equal amount of energy.”
It’s also important to note that almost all heat sources used for cooking, including electricity, can produce trace amounts of indoor air pollutants. These can be reduced by using range hoods and ceiling fans, and by opening windows or doors for proper ventilation.
Beyond the environmental track record of natural gas, millions of Americans prefer natural gas stoves. In fact, 47 million families have a gas stove at home. Bottom line: Nearly 40% of U.S. households rely on natural gas to cook their meals.
Small businesses and other commercial operations also prefer natural gas. According to a National Restaurant Association survey, over 75% of restaurants use natural gas in their kitchens.
Although restaurateurs cite food quality as a primary reason for preferring gas ranges, the affordability of natural gas cannot be overlooked. Using natural gas ranges saves restaurant operators anywhere from 10% to 30% in operating costs. Over the past 10 years, natural gas has saved businesses and patrons over $640 billion.
Eating out has risen by over 8% since February 2022, and a forced switch away from natural gas and toward electricity will mean that restaurants will have to raise prices. This will mean fewer customers and more layoffs.
So why, with all this considered, does the Biden administration continue its regulatory crusade against conventional fuels?
From the day he took office, Biden vowed to eliminate conventional fuels from America’s energy portfolio, and reducing the use of natural gas stoves achieves that end.
These measures taken by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Energy Department, and other government agencies only work to discredit conventional fuels as abundant, reliable, safe, and affordable.
Even worse, these policies do nothing to benefit Americans, but instead throw out consumer choice in favor of out-of-touch government mandates that hurt small businesses, raise prices, increase unemployment, hinder broader innovation, and discourage the production of goods that consumers actually want to buy.
Instead of limiting options and forcing a transition to electrification, Congress and the Biden administration should pursue policies that respect consumer choice, give Americans access to our vast resources of oil and natural gas, and allow for economic growth.
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Rachael Wilfong is a research assistant at the Center for Energy, Climate, and Environment at The Heritage Foundation. This first appeared in the Daily Signal.