The Biden administration, facing public backlash, dropped plans to consider banning gas stoves, but that hasn’t slowed down blue states, cities and towns already making moves to force residents and businesses to switch to all-electric appliances.
It’s a bold gambit in the war to eliminate fossil fuels because the mandates to go all-electric would increase demand on a power grid that relies heavily on fossil fuels.
Montgomery County, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C., was among the latest jurisdictions to ban natural gas for heat and appliances in new residential and commercial buildings, voting in December to require the new construction to utilize only electric energy by the end of 2026. In neighboring Washington, the city council voted to impose a similar ban on natural gas earlier in 2022.
In January, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced one of the most aggressive statewide anti-fossil fuel proposals in the country. She wants to eliminate natural gas hookups in new construction starting in 2025. The plan, which she said is necessary to fight climate change, would end the sale of all fossil-fuel-powered heating equipment anywhere in the state by 2030.
New York follows dozens of jurisdictions in California, including Berkley, San Francisco and San Jose, that have banned natural gas appliances and heating. In Los Angeles, the Department of Building and Safety recommended in October that the city require new construction to use only electric energy.
Washington state banned natural gas hookups in all new commercial construction and certain residential buildings beginning in July, while Denver, the largest city in Colorado, and Boulder, are both considering bans on natural gas appliances and heating in new homes and buildings.
Energy policy analysts say the list will grow, and more states and municipalities will soon force residents and businesses to give up their gas stoves, fireplaces, water heaters and furnaces and switch to all-electric heating and appliances.
According to the American Gas Association,roughly 85 localities across the country have adopted some prohibition on the use of natural gas.
“It’s obviously spreading, like a virus,” Rachael Wilfong, a researcher at the Center for Energy, Climate, and Environment at the conservative Heritage Foundation, told The Washington Times.
Climate change activists, who are lobbying for states and the federal government to ban fossil fuels, want to see complete electrification of cities and towns, arguing it would eventually lead to an end to fossil fuel use as more solar and wind power is worked into the nation’s energy grid.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, carbon dioxide emissions from natural gas made up about 34% of all energy-related CO2 emissions. The Obama administration labeled CO2 a greenhouse gas that is dangerous to the climate and President Biden has pledged to reduce the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions to 50% of 2005 levels by 2030.
But fossil fuel advocates point out that electrical grids remain mostly reliant on nuclear, coal and natural gas, and it derives only a small portion of their power from renewables such as wind and power, which means switching to an electric stove isn’t really producing green energy.
In New York State, renewables, mostly hydroelectric plants, powered 22% of the energy grid in 2020, according to the EIA.Wind and solar made up less than 2%.
Natural gas powered 46% of the state’s electricity generation, the EIA reported in 2022, while nuclear power provided a fourth of New York’s power.
“Even if you believe in the climate science, there is no way replacing gas stoves with electric is going to make a difference,” Steve Milloy, a senior fellow at the Energy and Environment Legal Institute, a fossil fuel advocacy group, told The Times.
Mrs. Hochul explained in her address to the state Legislature on Jan. 10 the reasoning behind her proposed ban. She told lawmakers that buildings are the largest source of emissions in New York and account for a third of the state’s greenhouse gas output “as well as pollution that aggravates asthma and endangers our children.”
As Mrs. Hochul was pitching a statewide fossil fuel ban, the Biden administration was rushing to assure the public that the federal government did not support a plan to ban gas stoves.
Biden officials were backtracking on a statement made by Richard Trumka Jr., a member of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, who said the panel would consider banning gas stoves because a study had shown they can cause asthma and are harmful to the environment.
“Products that can’t be made safe can be banned,” Mr. Trumka told Bloomberg News.
Mr. Trumka cited a study released in January that claimed gas stoves pollute the air and cause more than 12% of all childhood asthma.
The figure was derived from analyzing past studies, including one that tested gas stove emissions after sealing a room with plastic wrap to eliminate all ventilation. It was co-authored by the Rocky Mountain Institute, which seeks to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2030.
While some studies have linked asthma to gas stoves, other data show no correlation at all.
“A lot of the code changes occurring at the local level are being informed by controversial research on gas appliances and health that is not based on a real-world environment,” Steve Everley, managing director of the Energy and Natural Resources sector at FTI Consulting, told The Times. “There is a considerable body of research showing that indoor air quality issues are driven more by the act of cooking itself and that the most practical solution is using range hoods and other ventilation as manufacturers already recommend, regardless of which type of stove you’re using.”
Mr. Trumka’s gas stove ban threat caused immediate backlash and even ridicule of the Biden administration. It’s estimated that 40% of all U.S. stoves are powered by gas and it is the preferred way to cook food for many.
“This is a recipe for disaster,” Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, tweeted. “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.”
The creeping ban on natural gas is beginning to face opposition, particularly in red states. Florida and 19 other states, most controlled by GOP legislatures, have passed legislation prohibiting local governments from restricting natural gas use.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, eyed as a potential GOP presidential contender in 2024, took it a step further, going after the Biden administration following Mr. Trumka’s threat of a gas stove ban.
Mr. DeSantis said gas stoves allowed Floridians who lost power during the summer’s two hurricanes to cook their food.
“You cannot go down this road,” Mr. DeSantis said. “But that is exactly what they want to do.”
A week later, Mr. DeSantis pitched a tax holiday for gas stoves sometime in 2023.
“We’ll do that,” Mr. DeSantis said. “It’s fine with me. We want you to be able to have a choice.”