I have something to admit: I’m not a fan of induction ranges.
I know, I know, a climate reporter not being totally sold on electric stoves. It’s actually due entirely to the limits of my own personal experience. My parents installed an electric range in their kitchen a few years ago, and the thing sucks. It’s got a touch pad to increase the heat settings that’s glitchy as all hell, and I haven’t gotten the hang of how to properly sauté stuff on it.
And yet, I’m going to attempt to convince you—and myself—that we should do what Republicans have spent the better part of two weeks fearmongering about. The U.S. should ban gas stoves.
Gas stoves are one of those things where, the more you learn about them, the freakier they become. When you think about it, it’s kind of wild that we’ve all accepted the idea that it’s normal to have an appliance that actively spews fossil fuels inside our homes (and one that occasionally leads to deadly explosions at that). There’s a mounting body of evidence that these appliances are, in fact, extremely bad for our health. Gas stoves are big sources of nitrogen dioxide, which damages the respiratory system. They also leak benzene, a chemical known to cause cancer. Just last month, a study found that gas stoves could be linked to one in eight cases of childhood asthma in the U.S. That all seems like a high price to pay for the pleasure of cooking on a gas range.
And all this is before we even get into the climate stuff. Turns out that getting rid of something that is affecting our health could also help the environment. Americans’ use of gas stoves, research has found, really adds up: more than one-third of people in the U.S. use gas stoves, and all those appliances leak the greenhouse gas equivalent of 500,000 cars each year.
The scariest part, for me, is that a staggering amount of these emissions happen when the stove is off: A study published last year found that more than 75% of the stoves’ emissions happen when they’re not in use. Even if we don’t ban them altogether, at the bare minimum we ought to discuss regulation and improvements to tighten efficiency and safety. As we’re transitioning the world to electric vehicles and thinking about how to phase out fossil fuels entirely, electrification is a natural fit for this conversation.
In light of the overwhelming evidence about their impact on our health and climate, it’s easy to forget why people are so fussed about a possible change in their kitchen. One of the main outcries appears to be the idea that cooking is less effective or enjoyable on an electric range than a gas one—which seems, frankly, like a pretty dumb argument to put up against the idea that your stove could give your kid asthma. My bad cooking experiences at my parents’ house aside, there seem to be a whole host of opinions on this, ranging from professional chefs who say electric is “less efficient” than gas, to home-cooking superstar Alison Roman, who hosted an impromptu “ask me anything” on Twitter to extol the virtues of her electric range. It’s also important to note that the oil and gas industry has a documented history of working with restaurateurs to escalate anti-electric opinions, meaning that the pro chefs who do enjoy their electric ranges have had their perspectives drowned out by industry money propping up the opposing side.
The opinions of professional chefs aside, it’s incredibly strange how this whole conversation seems to have turned GOP politicians—many of whom look like the extent of their cooking is microwaving a personal pizza or drizzling salad dressing onto checks from fossil fuel companies—into diehard home cooking defenders. Sure, restaurateurs can have serious discussions about the pros and cons of gas versus electric. But, seriously, Ron DeSantis, what are you cooking at home that has you so worried about the quality of your range? I’d think that your busy schedule stripping gay people of their right to exist in Florida would be a little too packed to leave room to cook your way through Julia Child.
Proposing regulations on imports or future bans on gas ranges doesn’t mean the government is coming to rip the stove out of your wall—just that it may have some influence on the types of appliances you can install in the future. We should certainly consider the practicalities of making a big change like banning a certain appliance; there are real conversations to be had about making electric ranges efficient and available to everyone. Starting this year, the Inflation Reduction Act will make millions of dollars in rebates available to lower-income households to help them install new electric appliances, including electric stoves.
Mandating changes to problematic appliances is nothing new. Refrigerators used to spew toxic gasses; hairdryers used to blow asbestos directly into people’s faces. It’s a pretty simple proposition for the Consumer Product Safety Commission—which some politicians have suggested defunding as a result of this hoopla—to suggest updates and changes to technology when the evidence calls for it. It’s very clear from the butch pro-stove merch that GOP politicians have started hawking that stoves are a symbol of what is known around the climate community as petro-masculinity: the idea pushed by the right that climate fixes are a threat to American culture. Instead of caving to this macho insanity, climate advocates should double down and own the fact that this is something we should do.
I may be too harsh on my parents’ range. The things I don’t like about it can either be chalked up to unfamiliarity or model design—and those are pretty simple issues to solve. My mom and I cooked lots of delicious meals on it together over the holidays, and it’s really cool to watch water boil so damn quickly. If this is the future of stoves, I think I’ll adapt just fine.