Why Are We Fighting About Gas Stoves?
Conservatives want to turn cooktops into a culture war issue. Don't let them.
This week, I’m writing in the Guardian about the improbable War of the Cooktops, a very silly squabble between liberals who say “hey it turns out your gas stove is bad for you” and conservative men who, despite having never spent a day in the kitchen, scream in response, “YOU WILL PRY MY GAS STOVE OUT OF MY COLD DEAD HANDS.”
The Great Cooktop War of 2023 is burning up the internet and fueling the kind of fiery conservative missives usually reserved for the defense of deadly weapons. Conservatives seem ready to turn gas stoves into right-wing consumer symbols, putting them in the league of hugely oversized pickup truck parked outside the hugely oversized suburban McMansion, a steak-a-day diet, and red baseball caps, all set in contrast to liberals with their electric vehicles (or sensible Suburus), Impossible burgers on gluten-free buns, “In This House We Believe…” yard signs, and, apparently, induction ranges.
Yes, this is silly. But it’s also dangerous: Turning yet another healthier and more sustainable option into a cultural fissure is a bad thing, for the country, for our collective health, and for the environment.
So how did we get here? Here’s what happened, from the Guardian:
Some five decades’ worth of studies have found that gas stoves are hazardous to human health, with a recent one suggesting that gas stoves in US homes may be to blame for nearly 13% of childhood asthma cases. Gas stoves are bad for the environment, too, powered as they are by fossil fuels.
This has led to some liberal cities – Berkeley, California, and New York City – to mandate that some new buildings use electric over gas. But the blistering gas stove dispute really ignited when a commissioner at the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Richard Trumka Jr, told Bloomberg that gas was a “hidden hazard” and that when it came to banning gas stoves, “any option is on the table. Products that can’t be made safe can be banned.”
Cue rightwing firestorm.
Multiple prominent conservatives and rightwing politicians tweeted some version of “You will have to pry my gas stove from my cold dead hands.” Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, tweeted the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag with a gas stove in the place of the snake. Representative Ronny Jackson of Texas worried himself about the day “the maniacs in the White House come for my stove”.
Others claimed that Democrats were hypocrites, pointing to a video of the first lady, Jill Biden, cooking on gas. “Can’t wait to see the headlines when Feds raid Jill Biden’s private home to confiscate her criminal gas stove,” one rightwing agitator tweeted.
It didn’t seem to matter that it’s not actually true that Democrats want to send the feds in to seize your stove. According to a White House spokesperson, “The president does not support banning gas stoves – and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is independent, is not banning gas stoves.”
Still, though, even suggesting that the federal government may ban gas stoves was a spectacularly dumb political error. Trumka telling a reporter that his agency was considering banning gas stoves in new builds was foolish. It was more foolish still to follow up the firestorm by telling CNN that, while existing gas stoves aren’t being banned, “everything’s on the table” when it comes to limiting the use of new ones.
Big changes, and especially big changes to items that many people use every single day and invest significant amounts of money in, are tough for anyone to stomach. I recently switched to induction, and not at all voluntarily — the full story is in the Guardian, but as I wrote over there, a few months I ago I, too, would have told you that you could pry my gas stove from my cold dead hands. And while I’m a pretty solid follow-the-science health-conscious liberal, I would have resented the hell out of the government telling me I couldn’t choose my own cooking apparatus in my own home — especially if it meant that I had to switch to something that was far inferior (ahem, electric coil ranges) and that turned something I usually really enjoy into a process that I find frustrating and annoying.