(Jon Miltimore, Foundation for Economic Education) State Rep. Tommy Vitolo recently explained why a plan to ban gas stoves in Brookline, Mass., was scrapped.
“Go after the big stuff first,” said Vitolo, an energy consultant and Democrat who represents the 15th Norfolk District in the Massachusetts legislature. “For some, cooking is cathartic. For others it’s spiritual or cultural. It’s an important part of people’s daily lives, and they understandably have preferences.”
Vitolo’s comments were part of a Wall Street Journal story that shows chefs and restaurant groups are pushing back on US cities attempting to ban gas-powered stovies in eateries and newly-constructed buildings.
Numerous cities, the Journal reports, have retreated on the issue, either by allowing restaurants to obtain waivers or exempting stoves altogether from energy regulations. Restaurant owners say politicians have little understanding of how these bans could impact their business, arguing that electric stoves don’t perform as well as gas ones.
“I have respect for the environment, and I drive an electric car and am happy to pay the extra costs because the technology is good,” said George Chen, the founder and head chef of China Live, a restaurant in San Francisco. “But to say that an electric stove is as good as a gas one is misunderstanding the art of cooking.”
The reality is that banning gas stoves is not a serious or effective way to fight climate change.
For starters, as the Journal notes, emissions from gas stoves are negligible in context, using far less energy than fuel used to heat homes and water. In fact, according to the US Energy Information Administration, less than 3 percent of the natural gas consumed in homes stems from cooking with natural gas.
This is no doubt why state Rep. Vitolo suggested gas stoves were small potatoes. But the problems go beyond this. As Zilvinas Silenas pointed out in the Washington Examiner, some bans could actually be counterproductive, not just economically, but environmentally.
If lawmakers ban natural gas, homeowners and restaurants will of course still require energy—in the form of electricity—to warm their water and food. It takes energy to generate electricity, and the reality is that most electricity is generated by fossil fuels. Just 17 percent of electricity came from renewables in 2018, compared to 35 percent coming from natural gas and 27 percent coming from coal.
This means one should not simply assume that switching to electricity will result in cleaner energy.