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“God, guns, gas stoves”: gas stoves, new fad of the American right

How did gas stoves become a rallying cry for Republicans against Democrats, in the same way as the management of Covid-19 or ultra-sensitive social issues? The fire started after remarks by the head of a government agency, which caused one of these controversies punctuating political life in the United States.

In an interview with the agency Bloomberg, on January 9, Richard Trumka, member of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), said that because of the pollution emitted by this type of cooker, their ban was not to be ruled out. “It’s a hidden danger,” he said, referring to the potential respiratory problems they can cause. “All options are on the table. Products that cannot be made safe can be banned,” he said. In the United States, about 35% of kitchens run on gas, or 40 million people using it.

Already at a CPSC meeting in October 2022, Richard Trumka wanted commission staff to start drafting rules regarding gas stoves. But he couldn’t get the support of the other four members, recalls the New York Times.

“You’ll have to come and snatch it out of my hands!”

It was enough to start the rumor of an imminent ban on gas stoves and to raise cries of outrage at officials and right-wing Internet users. Rising against a possible attempt to flout their freedoms, some have posed as heralds of well-cooked food. “Electric stoves suck,” said conservative commentator Matt Walsh. Others have defended the most disadvantaged against government officials seen as privileged, induction hobs being expensive in the United States.

“The Democrats are going to go after your kitchen appliances,” said Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton. “Their will to control every aspect of your life has no limits, including how you cook your breakfast,” he tweeted.

South Carolina elected official Jeff Duncan said he saw it as a new “abuse of power” on the part of the Biden administration. “Washington bureaucrats shouldn’t have a say in how Americans cook their dinner,” he tweeted.

And like other netizens, Florida lawmaker Matt Gaetz proudly posted a video of a gas stove burner. “You will have to come and snatch it out of my hands!”, He wrote, taking up a formula notably popularized by actor Charlton Heston, long president of the powerful arms lobby NRA, who had hammered it in 2000 by brandishing a rifle to warn Democrats against any attempt to tackle guns.

In the same vein, Ohio elected official Jim Jordan has published this tweet sounding like a motto : “God. Guns. Gas stoves”. West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin was also critical. “The Feds don’t have to tell American families how to cook their dinner. I can tell you the last thing that would leave my house is the gas stove we cook on,” he tweeted.

Joe Biden opposed to gas stove ban

In view of the extent of the controversy, the White House and the head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission had to speak out. “The president (Joe Biden) does not support a ban on gas stoves,” spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said. And the commission, “which is independent, does not ban gas stoves”. Mike Sommers, president of the American Petroleum Institute, said a ban on gas stoves “isn’t going to happen”. He predicted a backlash from homeowners across the country if it did: “People love their gas stoves.”

“I want to set the record straight. Contrary to recent press reports, I am not seeking to ban gas stoves,” CPSC chief Alex Hoehn-Saric wrote to him. In the spring, the commission will begin seeking public input on the dangers of gas stoves and potential solutions to reduce the risks. Alex Hoehn-Saric has indeed recalled that, according to studies, “emissions from gas stoves can be dangerous”.

More than 12% of asthma cases attributed to cooking gas, two studies find

Recent research, which is not unanimous, accuses gas cooking of being responsible for cases of childhood asthma in the United States and Europe. A study published in December 2022 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, estimates that 12.7% of childhood asthma cases in the United States can be attributed to cooking gas. “Using a gas stove is pretty much like having a smoker live in your house,” lead author Talor Gruenwald told AFP. This Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) study is based on a meta-analysis of 41 previous studies, combined with US census data, and echoes 2018 Australian research, which attributed 12.3% of childhood asthma to these stoves.

Similar results were unveiled Monday, January 9, in Europe, by the associations Clasp, Respire and the European Alliance for Public Health. By conducting laboratory tests and computer simulations, the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) estimates that 12% of childhood asthma cases in the European Union are also linked to this method of cooking. But this report, commissioned by NGOs, is not published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Some, like the US gas lobby AGA, brushed off the results, calling them “a pure mathematical exercise in promoting a cause, with nothing scientifically new”. But for Stanford University’s Rob Jackson, author of research on methane pollution from gas stoves (even when turned off, via leaks), they corroborate “dozens of other studies concluding that breathing indoor gas pollution can trigger asthma”. Daniel Pope, professor of public health at the University of Liverpool (United Kingdom) says he is extremely cautious. The link between asthma and pollution from gas stoves has not yet been definitively proven and more research is needed, he believes.

The debate over proposals to limit the use of gas in homes because of its impact on climate change and public health has intensified since 2019, when Berkeley became the first city in the country to ban connections to the gas in most new homes and buildings, relates the New York Times. Since then, dozens of cities in California and across the country have enacted similar ordinances, which target not just gas ranges but other appliances as well.

The lively debate on stoves is in any case the perfect “example of the most ridiculous trends in American politics”, estimated bluntly, Thursday, January 12, a column published in the magazine The Atlantic. “A trifle can turn into a huge controversy, for no good reason.”


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