Some of the bluest states in the nation have committed themselves to war with the most efficient appliances in your home: natural gas-powered heaters, furnaces, and stoves.
In September, California announced a new rule passed unanimously by the thoroughly undemocratic California Air Resources Board (CARB). It will outlaw the sale of natural-gas heaters at the beginning of the next decade. New York’s newly reelected Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul proposed a similar initiative this month, which would ensure that the Empire State constructs only “climate-friendly electric homes” by 2027. The first step on the long march involves a ban on the use of oil or gas for residential water heaters, furnaces, and stoves.
Now, the federal government is getting in on the act, but it’s not being so honest about what it hopes to achieve by anathematizing your gas-powered appliances. It’s not about the environment. At least not exclusively. It’s an effort to safeguard your health, which you would recklessly imperil if you were left to your own foolish devices.
In a shockingly advantageous coincidence for meddlesome bureaucrats, it turns out your gas stove is as bad for the environment as it is for your lungs. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recently discovered that these age-old appliances, which are in use in about 40 percent of American homes, produce harmful levels of nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and particulates. Recent studies (like those cited by California officials in their quest to ban gas appliances) also found that natural gas stoves and ovens leak carcinogenic benzene into the atmosphere, exposure to which is unsafe at any level. Other studies maintain that gas stoves have contributed to a measurable increase in childhood asthma cases.
If appealing to the hypochondriacal mania that pervades the national discourse doesn’t do it for you, maybe moral blackmail will. According to some Democratic lawmakers, the menace that affects roughly 49 million households hits the poor and American minorities hardest. “Products that can’t be made safe can be banned,” Commission official Richard Trumka Jr. bluntly told reporters. Given the degree to which the physics associated with the combustion of hydrocarbons is unreformable, it’s logical to conclude that an outright ban is the agency’s objective.
All this psychological manipulation is necessary to overcome the foremost obstacle before the busybodies who have gone to war with so many modern conveniences: They work better than their alternatives.
If your primary objective is to get something as hot as possible as fast as possible, there is no substitute for an electric range. But temperature regulation is not its strong suit. Anyone who prepares food on a regular basis understands that erratic temperature control is a recipe for ruining the recipe.
If you only use your stovetop to boil or sear, you’re unlikely to notice the difference between electric and gas. But let’s say you want to sauté, braise, fry, or simmer—just about any other stovetop activity that occurs between the temperature ranges of scorching and warming. In those cases, gas is superior.
Moreover, there are certain activities that electric stovetops cannot manage. You cannot char anything that requires charring, such as delicate vegetables. You cannot toast anything that needs toasting unless you limit your toasting to the oven, which produces a distinct flavor and texture that is not always desirable. You cannot flambé in the absence of a direct flame.
The loss of these techniques may not disturb those for whom fine dining is one restaurant reservation away—those with sufficient means who reside in locales with access to that level of finery. That leads us to perhaps the most important distinction between electric and gas overlooked by America’s busybodies: gas is cheaper. In most U.S. states, natural-gas appliances cost between 10 and 30 percent less to operate on a regular basis than electric alternatives.
The attack on natural gas appliances should be viewed as an extension of the war the nation’s regulatory apparatus is waging against gasoline-powered lawn equipment. The arguments that opponents of these machines deploy are myriad. They are bad for the environment. They throw “disease-spreading” particulate into the atmosphere. They shatter the bucolic placidity of the spring and summer months. These dubious assertions are necessary to convince you to devote more of your income and vastly more manhours to the work of lawn care.
There’s symmetry, too, with the undemocratic means by which America’s most neurotic states are depriving you of access to single-use plastics such as straws and shopping bags, incandescent lighting, and short-cycle dishwashers and laundry machines. Efficiency is the problem. If abstractions such as social justice and sustainability fail to convince you, then you must be cajoled or extorted out of your selfish attachment to proficiency. And if that doesn’t work, there’s always the force of law.