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Gas stoves debate explodes in Washington

Mar 28, 2023


01/12/2023 06:00 PM EST

Blue flames rise from a natural gas stove. | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Sometimes it takes just a hint of gas to cause a massive flame.

That's what happened this week after a federal appointee floated a hypothetical ban on gas stoves. The comment ignited a swift backlash from Republicans — prompting some in the GOP to vow to defend their fossil-fuel-powered appliances with their lives, while conservative publications ran headlines like "Biden's War on Gas Stoves."

Never mind that President Joe Biden and his agencies aren't proposing any stove bans (although a number of liberal state and city governments are).

In a matter of days, those blue-flamed cooktops have become emblems of the partisan battle over the future of the nation's energy. Add them to the GOP's long-running list of icons of American life they say Democrats are gunning to outlaw or ruin, from incandescent light bulbs and standard toilets to hamburger meat and cars and trucks.

"I’ll NEVER give up my gas stove," tweeted Republican Rep. Ronny Jackson of Texas, the former presidential physician. "If the maniacs in the White House come for my stove, they can pry it from my cold dead hands. COME AND TAKE IT!!"

"First, the liberals came for our light bulbs," tweeted former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), an ex-Trump administration official and potential White House contender. "Then, they came for our cars. Now, they’re coming for our stoves."

What's really going on?The brouhaha kicked up after a peer-reviewed study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that 12.7 percent of childhood asthma cases in the United States can be attributed to gas-burning stoves.

A member of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which regulates dangerous household items, then told Bloomberg that a ban on gas stoves should be on the table. "Products that can't be made safe can be banned," said Richard Trumka Jr., a Biden nominee who joined the commission in 2021.

But as POLITICO's E&E News reporter Ariel Wittenberg reported, Trumka withdrew a proposal to regulate gas stoves last fall after it failed to gain support from his four fellow commissioners.

Instead, the commission voted to gather "public input on hazards associated with gas stoves." Chair Alexander Hoehn-Saric disavowed any ban notions Wednesday, saying: "I am not looking to ban gas stoves and the CPSC has no proceeding to do so."

As for Biden, "the President does not support banning gas stoves," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

The real war on gasThis much is true, though: Dozens of local governments either have moved or are moving to decrease their carbon footprints by prohibiting natural gas hookups in new buildings, which would bar both gas stoves and furnaces. Democratic New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has also joined the trend, calling this week for the nation's most aggressive ban on fossil fuels in new buildings.

Buildings account for 40 percent of planet-warming pollution in the U.S., making the sector a prime target for cuts. And that means the stove wars are unlikely to burn out anytime soon.

It's Thursday — thank you for tuning in to POLITICO's Power Switch. I’m your host, Arianna Skibell. Power Switch is brought to you by the journalists behind E&E News and POLITICO Energy. Send your tips, comments, questions to [email protected]

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But renewable energy's track record is mixed. The percentage of Latino and Asian people who work in the wind industry eclipse their numbers in the national workforce. Black people, by contrast, accounted for only 7 percent of the wind workforce in 2020.

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Zinke, a Montana Republican who served in the Trump administration and returned to the House this month, gave a speech Tuesday praising a GOP-led panel set up to investigate "the weaponization of the federal government."

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That's it for today, folks! Thanks for reading.