The war on your gas stove

Charles C.W. Cooke:

One could advance any number of compelling arguments against the Biden administration’s reported desire to institute a nationwide ban on gas stoves. One could note that such prohibitions are clearly not within the federal government’s constitutional powers. One could question the president’s priorities in a time of inflation and consumer alarm. One could observe that the study that has led the administration to consider outlawing gas stoves is ridiculously — and deliberately — flawed. One could even ask how such a measure — which would make many forms of ethnic cooking more difficult — could be squared with all that fashionable talk of systemic implicit racial bias. And yet to offer any of these objections would ultimately be counterproductive, insofar as it would signal an acceptance of the premise underlying the policy, which is that this is the sort of matter that a free people should expect their federal government to superintend.

I do not accept this premise, and, as a result, I must offer up a response wholly different from the ones above. Namely: Bugger off.

That’s right. The correct response here is a rather simple one, all told: Go away. Leave us alone. Stick your ludicrous propositions where the sun don’t shine.

As those who contrived it made abundantly clear, we did not institute a federal government so that it could micromanage us to the point at which it is determining which cooking equipment we are permitted to feature inside our own homes. That is a private matter — a matter in which the powers that be ought to have no say.

For more than a century now, Americans have been cooking with gas — and, clearly, many of them still wish to do so. Indeed, until yesterday morning, nobody had thought much about this at all. There is no Anti-Flicker League, no Mothers Against Gas Stoves. This whole thing has been a top-down affair, contrived by the terminally bored. At some point in the last couple of years, a bunch of hyperactive progressives decided that gas stoves might be a good candidate for their next moral crusade, and, after a cursory review of the idea, they elected to go for it. As the drive progressed, the justification for it changed: First, the impetus was climate change, then it was health, and, if these fail, it will become something else — the perils of living in the same house as plastic knobs, perhaps. But really, these are just pretexts. The true purpose of the effort is to advance a cause in the hope of feeling fulfilled.

As usual, the press has allowed itself to be entirely co-opted. In the summer of 2021, the New York Times was advising its readers that the “provocative headlines” that activists had secured “have cooked up a scare that we don’t think is warranted.” The Times’ happy conclusion? “You don’t actually need to freak out.”

But that was then — before such views became unfashionable, and before those who voiced them were called racists and antediluvians and climate-change deniers. And so, of course, the piece was subsequently updated. “We’ve changed our advice,” the prepended note reads, “and no longer recommend hanging on to your gas stove for as long as it works.” Naturally.

George Orwell believed that to picture the future, one needed only to imagine “a boot stamping on a human face forever,” but, as it turned out, this was far too dramatic an augury. In 2023, the federal government doesn’t so much trample us to death as bore us into the grave. The nagging is endless. “Don’t say that!” “Don’t drink this!” “Don’t eat that!” “Don’t drive!” “I wonder if you know that your swimming pool is dangerous?”

And the thing is: Yeah, I do know that swimming pools can be dangerous. I do know that driving is more dangerous than flying. I do know that I’d probably live longer if I skipped that steak and had a salad, and that that fourth glass of wine is bad for me. I do know that candles are more likely to cause fires than light bulbs are, that having sex is more dangerous than celibacy, and that going to rock concerts or football games is bad for my hearing. I just don’t care — or, if I do care, I don’t think it’s any of Washington, D.C.’s business to work out where my line is. Frankly, most of the “science” that’s being sold by the Anti-Stove Brigade seems extremely thin to me, but, even if it weren’t, I still wouldn’t give a toss about it, because I’m an adult, and I’m aware that life is full of trade-offs. In their latest iteration, the Safetyists insist that homes with gas stoves are slightly more likely to yield asthmatics than homes without. Okay — arguendo, let’s assume that’s true. It’s also true that homes with gas stoves are more likely to yield good cooking — and that, if you’re using a wok or cooking roti or what you will, gas is pretty much imperative. Who gets to decide which of these matters more? Some humdrum grinch at the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), or me? I’m sorry, I thought this was America.

I have come increasingly to suspect that the deepest fault line in these United States lies not between people on the “left” and the “right,” or between the Republicans and the Democrats, or between the north and the south, but between the sort of person who spends their days wondering how many more hours they might be able to eke out if they lived in a pillow-lined concrete bunker, and the sort of person who intuits somewhere deep down in their soul that a world without any rough edges is a world that is less worth living in.

Justifying the administration’s proposed move, CPSC commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. explained that “products that can’t be made safe can be banned.” What, I wonder, would be excluded from that definition?

On second thought, forget I asked. I wouldn’t want to give him any ideas.

Later came an update from Ari Blaff:

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission chairman Alexander D. Hoehn-Saric issued a statement Wednesday assuring the public that his agency has no intention of banning gas stoves after a commission official drew the ire of the cooking public by suggesting the appliances might be banned in the near future due to the alleged health threat they pose to Americans.

“Over the past several days, there has been a lot of attention paid to gas stove emissions and to the Consumer Product Safety Commission,” Hoehn-Saric wrote in an official statement released Wednesday. “To be clear, I am not looking to ban gas stoves and the CPSC has no proceeding to do so.”

Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. had originally told Bloomberg News that fears over air quality caused by gas stoves was creating “a hidden hazard.”

“Any option is on the table. Products that can’t be made safe can be banned,” Trumka Jr. insisted.

The comments came following Senator Cory Booker (D., N.J.) and Representative Don Beyer (D., Va.) urging the federal agency to investigate the issue due to its allegedly disproportionate impact on black, Latino, and low-income households.

Gas stoves fell into the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s crosshairs following an academic journal article published in December 2022, finding that 12.7 percent of childhood asthma cases were linked to its usage in households. The paper went on to parallel the “childhood asthma burden” produced by gas stoves being equivalent to secondhand smoke exposure.

The American Gas Association responded to the publication by challenging the robustness of the study.

“The claims made…are derived from an advocacy-based mathematical exercise that doesn’t add any new science. The authors conducted no measurements or tests based on real-life appliance usage, emissions rates, or exposures, and did not adequately consider other factors that are known to contribute to asthma and other respiratory health outcomes,” the American Gas Association stated in an official release last week.

Similar sentiments were echoed by West Virginia’s Democratic senator Joe Manchin on Twitter midday Wednesday.

“This is a recipe for disaster. The federal government has no business telling American families how to cook their dinner. I can tell you the last thing that would ever leave my house is the gas stove that we cook on,” Manchin wrote.

The news coincided with New York governor Kathy Hochul’s state-of-the-state address Tuesday which called for completely eliminating gas heating and appliances in new construction projects by 2030. One Brooklyn-based restauranteur, Stratis Morfogen, expressed his frustration at Hochul’s proposal.

“We lose 40% productivity by using electric…If they inquire with small business owners, I’ll give them three pieces of advice, get a stronger filtration system, get a hood system that works and basically train your staff how to maintain it,” Morfogen told Tucker Carlson on Fox News.

Hoehn-Saric is obviously lying given the quotes from people who do want to ban gas stoves and other natural gas appliances. Remember, everyone who voted for Joe Biden voted for this.



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