Debate over gas stoves is sure to be reignited after the Department of Energy on Wednesday proposed new efficiency rules for natural gas stoves and other consumer cooking appliances.
The Energy Department’s proposal would set limits on energy consumption for the stoves and energy usage standards on both electric and gas stoves and ovens. Both gas and electric stoves would have to meet certain thresholds for energy efficiency, the proposed rule stated.
“As required by Congress, the Department of Energy is proposing efficiency standards for gas and electric cooktops—we are not proposing bans on either,” an Energy Department spokesperson said in a statement to news outlets Wednesday. “The proposed standards would not go into effect until 2027 and cumulatively save the nation up to $1.7 billion. Every major manufacturer has products that meet or exceed the requirements proposed today.”
Energy savings from the rule would improve the security and reliability of the nation’s energy system, the DOE said, estimating that the standards could enable energy savings of 3.4 percent relative to a scenario without the standards. It also estimated manufacturers would incur total conversion costs of $183.4 million to comply with the standards.
The agency said it has “tentatively concluded that the proposed standards represent the maximum improvement in energy efficiency that is technologically feasible and economically justified,” adding that it estimates “in order to bring products into compliance with new and amended standards, it is estimated that the industry would incur total conversion costs of $183.4 million.”
Products that can achieve the proposed standard thresholds are already on the market, the Energy Department stated. Furthermore, according to the proposal, the benefits of the proposed standard would outweigh the potential drawbacks.
“That conclusion remains true under any reasonable analytical assumption—i.e., the proposed standards are net beneficial under any discount rate (both for climate and non-climate benefits and costs), any cost scenario, and any other scenario DOE analyzed,” the proposed regulation stated. “Moreover, because consumer operating cost savings and health benefits alone greatly exceed costs under all such assumptions and scenarios, DOE noted that this conclusion does not depend on climate benefits (though DOE’s estimates of climate benefits remain important and robust).”
Several weeks ago, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. drew controversy after speculating that gas-powered stoves could be banned when the agency meets later this year. When asked about a possible ban in a Bloomberg News interview, Trumka said that “any option is on the table” and noted that “products that can’t be made safe can be banned.”
Trumka, meanwhile, was apparently making reference to a controversial study that found a link between childhood asthma and gas stoves. That study has since drawn criticism from medical experts and researchers before a spokesperson for the group behind the study, a well-known environmental group called the Rocky Mountain Institute, later noted the paper “does not assume or estimate a causal relationship” between the stoves and asthma.
After the controversy erupted in January, Dr. Ran Goldman, a pediatrics professor at the University of British Columbia, told local media outlets that the report was merely “a calculation of what could be causing asthma in children.”
“This is not a true representation of what is happening and there is a huge uncertainty around how many children with asthma are truly because of those emissions. Asthma is a multifactorial disease,” Goldman told GlobalNews. “It’s a disease we’re still studying because it’s so complex.”
Another official with the Consumer Product Safety Commission clarified later on Twitter that the agency doesn’t have plans to ban gas stoves. The White House also released a statement saying President Joe Biden doesn’t support such a ban, either.
After the proposed rule was issued Wednesday, officials with natural gas industry groups expressed alarm.
“We are concerned that this is another attempt by the federal government to use regulations to remove viable and efficient natural gas products from the market,” Karen Harbert, president of the American Gas Association, told Bloomberg News
A spokesperson for another trade group expressed alarm over the proposed rule.
“This approach by the DOE could effectively ban gas appliances,” said Jill Notini, vice president, communications and marketing, at the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, according to the outlet. “We are concerned this approach could eliminate fully featured gas products.”
Some states and localities, meanwhile, have already proposed bans on installing new gas appliances and furnaces in newly constructed homes, sparking more alarm.