Gasoline Stoves: The Beloved Blue Flame is Simply Higher
By Mark Krebs and Tom Tanton
“Forcibly moving the market via equipment costs is a typical DOE strategy. And then they say, ‘let the market decide’.”
On January 30, 2023, National Public Radio (NPR) published an episode, How Worried Should You Be About Your Gas Stove? On February 4, NPR released a follow up: Gas stove makers have a pollution solution. They’re just not using it. Listen to both audio clips.
NPR’s advocates are part of a choir trying to justify ending natural gas combustion, starting with gas stoves. They are just as purposefully misleading as the rest of the choir.
The concern should not be about gas stove usage but the public policy of The Biden Administrative State to wean consumers off the direct use of natural gas and propane and on to electric appliances, ASAP. This “transition” includes how to heat your home, heat your water, cook, and drive.
Gas cooking is highly valued by consumers, virtually all of whom have normal taste buds. It is the one gas appliance that consumers see and use daily. The blue flame is part of home life, as is the fireplace run by gas or propane.
In contrast, the furnace and water heater are usually tucked away in the basement or equipment closet and operate unseen. Also unseen are the legions of new electric power plants transmission lines and battery storage system to provide ostensibly “clean” juice for these new electric appliances and the serious environmental, strategic, and human rights impacts from mining and processing heavy metals and rare earths.
In fact, no one has done a comparative full fuel cycle analysis to document whether electrification is a good idea or a bad one; at least not a transparent analysis that has been subject to independent technical debate. Neither have the all-electrification busybodies presented a comprehensive plan to produce the millions of batteries necessary for the electrical grid to be able to handle all these new uses, while burdened by intermittent wind and solar.
Why The Crusade?
Why is the Biden Administration messing with a piece of Americana. Is it to try the hardest part first? Or because “clean” electrification is where the money is? With passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, it is definitely where the subsidies are. The enormity of these subsidies are like an all-you-can-eat buffet for Green New Deal enrichment.
Phasing out natural gas and propane is not merely for the U.S. to meet its commitments for “deep decarbonization” per the UN’s Paris accords. It’s also about “great reset” social control. With the advent of “smart” electric meters and appliances, it’s relatively easy to centrally control electricity usage.
Coupled with digital currency, it then becomes relatively easy to control behavior, such as remotely changing YOUR living room thermostat or disabling your car. Early dinner? No: you’ll cook when the power is temporarily turned on to your stove. But if you project the correct attitude of cheerful compliance, you may be awarded with an extra ration of electricity.
Fear mongering about the “existential threat” from Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) hasn’t been working as well as planned. So maybe, they hope, additional fearmongering about how parents are putting their own children at risk due to respiratory ailments, such as asthma from your stove will do the trick.
There are at least three agencies leading the Biden Administration’s whole-of-government fossil-fuel eradication efforts. These are:
- DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy” (EERE)
- The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
None of these agencies have Congressional authority to regulate “indoor air pollution.” EERE has been pushing electrification at least since the Obama Administration, and it continued even throughout the Trump Administration. The Biden Administration simply removed the nominal (if any) restraints there may have been under Biden’s “whole of government” executive orders (EOs) to reduce GHG’s: e.g., Executive Order (EO) 13990.
In EERE’s case certain EO obstacles include that they still must act “as appropriate and consistent with applicable law.” The Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 (EPCA) is one such law. EPCA is also supposed to promote regulatory objectivity. Under EPCA, DOE/EERE must also “consider” safety. The science that the Biden Administration claims to guide such regulatory decisions is far from conclusive that gas stoves are harmful.
Instead, the Biden Administration and its supporters “cherry pick” data that supports regulatory expansion. In this case, the science comes from the highly partisan Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). A major activity (and bias) of RMI is its “Electricity Innovation Lab. It reiterates RMI’s mission to achieve a carbon-free electricity monopoly.
According to independent scientific researchers with a deep knowledge of this subject, most of the “indoor air pollution” is emitted from the food itself being cooked. Such pollution is in the form of particulates from cooking food regardless of what form of energy is doing the cooking. Those particulates may be especially harmful to adolescent asthmatics.
Government Orange Gas?
What is it exactly that DOE wants to force on consumers under the guise of “energy efficiency in the case of gas stoves? It appears to be a relatively new type of gas stove burner that glows orange (infrared, a.k.a., “radiant”) instead of the blue flames present in traditional burners that consumers are accustomed to. Infrared burners have been around for a long time, especially for gas BBQ grills but they don’t last long. Infrared burner adoption for consumer kitchen cooking appliances have been limited to a few high-end “prosumer” gas ranges. Costs for such models tend to be in the vicinity of $7,000 to $9,000. One example is Wolf/Sub Zero’s Model # GR364G with a MSRP of $8,760. And only the griddle portion of that model is infrared. According to DOE, there may be one model that is all infrared but good luck finding it.
In comparison, a basic electric range can be purchased for under $500. Granted, if DOE mandates infrared gas burners, mass production could decrease cost premiums. But for cost-conscious consumers, such premiums will likely far exceed those of electric stoves, even induction electric stoves. Forcibly moving the market via equipment costs is a typical DOE strategy. And then they say, “let the market decide.”
Apparently, infrared burners are a little more efficient and may emit a little less of combustion by-products, at least at first, when they are in pristine condition. Because infrared burners have some potential to reduce gas consumption, EERE has deemed them “technically feasible and economically justified” as required to mandate their use under EPCA. DOE/EERE supposedly has the burden of proof that DOE/EERE justifications are valid. However, DOE/EERE often attempts to shift the burden of proof to “industry,” knowing full well the regulatory burdens they create in so doing.
This transfer of responsibility to “industry” usually requires years of litigation. DOE/EERE also has specific obligations it is supposed to follow under its so-called Process Improvement Rule; one of which requires transparent and reproducible analyses. In practice, DOE/EERE treats its Process Improvement Rule as a mere guide, even though it is listed in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations. In stark contrast to such rules and regulations, DOE/EERE only increases regulatory complexity and opacity. As a side note, there are dozens of articles in our Master Resource archive that document such strategies.
NPR’s Cherry Pick
NPR’s second article included cherry picking technical literature regarding infrared burners. Some of this literature harkens back to the 1980’s. Then, no market development work was undertaken for several reasons. These included:
- Consumers simply weren’t interested. They preferred blue flames.
- Infrared burners are much more expensive than traditional (blue flame) burners.
- Infrared burners require pristine cleanliness to show any improved efficiency and emissions. Such pristine conditions are not usually present for long in most “real-world” kitchens.
The NPR articles also allude to “problems” with these burners, but they didn’t elaborate. Here are a few:
- Stovetop gas burners are easily contaminated. With traditional burners, they can simply be scrubbed clean and put back into operation. Not so with infrared burners.
- Radiant infrared burners are designed to reduce NOx emissions (an atmospheric emissions concern). However, infrared burners typically increase emissions of carbon monoxide (CO).
- Finding a “sweet spot” where NOx emissions are reduced while holding carbon monoxide (CO) emissions constant was a pervasive objective. CO is both a marker of reduced efficiency and a deadly serious health hazard.
Part of DOE’s bag of tricks for justifying higher gas appliance efficiencies is to minimize maintenance costs and safety concerns. At a minimum, “worst-case scenario” analyses are needed to determine how infrared burners perform in the “real world” of “messy” stoves. In messy situations, infrared burners may turn into product liabilities. And they may have to be replaced; that can quickly get expensive. It is at least possible that “dirty” infrared burners emit more pollutants than traditional blue flame burners. DOE needs to “consider” safety consequences of its energy efficiency proposals going forward. It is not evident that they have.
Likewise, DOE tends to minimize its estimations for what the increased prices will be that consumers must bear from increased efficiency. Taken together with other forms of analytical “trickery,” consumer cost-effectiveness can quickly become negative.
Since pictures are “worth a thousand words, see Shutterstock’s 223 images of infrared gas stoves. Several of these are pictures of infrared burners that have experienced obvious degradation from cooking spills.
There’s also movement on the electrical stove side of all this. That is, electric stoves continue to change and the technology du jour is the induction stove. Induction stoves electro-magnetically couple the stove with the pan, directly heating the pan and not the stove. They are more efficient than tradition hot coil electric resistance stoves but are also more expensive and require magnetic cookware. They too, have associated health risks (Induction stoves may not be safe to use with pacemakers; “People with pacemakers are better off avoiding induction stoves.”)
New Subsidies: Inflation Reduction Act
The so-called Inflation Reduction Act provides perverse incentives for switching to electricity. These incentives are summarized as follows:
DOE also needs to consider the safety feature of having a gas stove during extended electric grid blackouts that may make the difference between consumers and their water pipes freezing or not. This benefit was widely observed in Texas during Winter Storm Uri.
To make a logical scientific argument about consumer safety concerns with gas burners, DOE must clearly and transparently demonstrate a safety issue with conventional “blue flame” burners. Instead, DOE is proposing a one-way move to infrared burners based upon theoretical economic operating cost advantages of a few percentage points.
Meanwhile, DOE is not mandating a move from electric resistance stoves to higher efficiency electric induction stoves that, according to the EPA, can be “5-10% more efficient than conventional electric resistance units.” EPA’s verbiage following that quote states: “and about 3 times more efficient than gas.” That latter verbiage is tantamount to professing a belief that electricity is magically created inside of the house’s electric meter. This is pretty much “par for the course” for the Biden Administration’s “Green New Deal” energy and environmental policies.
Under EPCA’s anti-backsliding provisions, once infrared burners are mandated, there is no going back to traditional (blue flame) gas burners. Thus, if consumers want to regain better cooking maintenance and reliability, they can only switch to electric stoves. We think that’s their plan! Consumers will probably choose electric resistance varieties due to their relatively low initial purchase cost. What this portends, at least for the next few decades, is that energy efficiency when measured over the complete fuel-cycle is massively reduced throughout most of the United States where fossil fuels still dominate electric grid generation. The same goes for emissions when measured along the complete fuel-cycle. The direct use of natural gas makes the most sense economically and environmentally for consumers. Consumers are losing that choice.
DOE needs to stop politicizing energy appliances on unfounded predictions that “clean” renewable electricity will soon dominate the grid. This scenario is not at all probable given the cost and enormity of the quest. Big Brother is already running wild and must be leashed/removed. Given that DOE’s proposed rule calls for yearly energy consumption limits for cooking appliances, rationing might not be totally far-fetched. The time to expose and eradicate is now.
Appendix A: Call To Action (Next Steps, What You Can Do)
- Please file comments. They will become part of the record for subsequent litigation. The title of this proposed rulemaking is “Energy Conservation Standards for Residential Conventional Cooking Products.” Comments Due Apr 3, 2023
- In response to the public uproar regarding losing their gas stoves, Senators Cruz and Manchin have introduced the Gas Stoves Protection and Freedom Act, S. 240. Educate yourself on this and support its passage.
- Demand that DOE/EERE analyze and consider “what could possibly go wrong” with “betting the farm” on “all renewables all the time” as well as a complete accounting of complete full fuel cycle efficiency and emissions of all alternatives.
- Demand that DOE and other agencies drop their ruinous “electrify everything” policies.
- Be on the lookout for state and local efforts that will achieve the same ends: no gas stoves. Be active in resisting those activities even if not in your immediate area. Don’t use the excuse “it doesn’t affect me.”
Appendix B: Further Reading
In all the years that we have been documenting DOE/EERE’s pro-electric biases within Master Resource, we have not seen as much conservative attention as now exists over consumer cooking appliances. The following lists most of these. In case you think we missed something significant, please add it via the comment feature at the end of this article.
The Gas Stove Fiasco Is Not Over – IER
IER gets into the weeds about DOE’s proposed rulemaking for cooking appliances.
Yes, They Are Coming for Your Gas Stoves Kevin Killough, Cowboy State Daily, February 9, 2023
A casual remark by U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. about banning gas stoves published in a Bloomberg article set off a nationwide clamor. Immediately after the article was published, the commissioner tweeted, “To be clear, CPSC isn’t coming for anyone’s gas stove.” But many question how sincere Trumpka’s walk back was.
Steve Hilton’s “the Next Revolution” (Fox News) had an excellent expose on the gas stove debacle. February 5, 2023
https://www.foxnews.com/video/6319854769112. At the 02.40 minute mark, Hilton discussed an Amicus brief that DOE/DOE allegedly submitted in support of California gas bans
Why the Debate Over Banning Gas Stoves Isn’t Over (Katherine Blunt, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 2, 2023)
Critics of gas stoves have cited greenhouse gases emitted by the appliances, including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Biden administration says it doesn’t support banning the appliances, as the future of natural gas in the home remains unsettled.
Those Attacks on Gas Stoves Aren’t Really About Health Steve Gorham, Washington Examiner, February 1, 2023
… Several studies claim that the use of gas can cause respiratory illness. The CPSC is considering restrictions on gas stoves, including possible bans in new residential construction. But attacks on gas stoves are based on questionable science and are largely driven by concerns not related to health
The Campaign To Ban Gas Stoves Kimberly Strassel, Wall Street Journal, January 26, 2023
Don’t believe for a second Consumer Product Safety Commission member Richard Trumka Jr.’s slippery claim that they aren’t coming for your stove. Or the media narrative that Republicans are “hyping” a new “culture war” by “pretending” the Biden administration intends to ban gas stoves. The reason gas stoves are in the news is simple: There is a coordinated, calculated—and well-funded—strategy to kill them off. It’s the joint enterprise of extremely powerful climate groups, working with Biden administration officials who have publicly stated their aim to eliminate all “combustion appliances” in homes. Only after the GOP called them out did anyone pretend otherwise.
The Billionaires Behind the Gas Bans Robert Bryce, Substack, January 26, 2023
Last March, in the Federal Register, the Department of Energy published its annual estimate for residential energy costs. It found that on a per-BTU basis, electricity costs about 3.5 times more than natural gas. It also found that gas was, by far, the cheapest form of in-home energy, costing less than half as much as fuels like kerosene, propane, and heating oil. That means that efforts to ban natural gas are, in practice, an energy tax on the poor and the middle class
Green Groups, Government Officials Meet Secretly To Plot End of Gas Stoves and Appliances Susan Ferrechio, Washington Times, January 26, 2023
Consumer Product Safety Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr.’s threat of a federal ban on gas stoves this month has channeled the goals of left-wing billionaire think tanks that are making significant progress in pushing communities to eliminate fossil fuels. A web of environmental groups is stepping up the campaign to persuade states and local communities to switch to all-electric energy. The Rocky Mountain Institute, the Sierra Club and other green groups are working successfully to ban gas stoves and other gas appliances in communities throughout the U.S. as part of an aggressive move to implement a net-zero global economy by 2050.
Gas Stove Ban Narrative Ties to Deeper Agenda Epoch TV, January 17, 2023
A new narrative to ban gas stoves was pushed suddenly and simultaneously by several major news outlets, leftist politicians, and public figures. Almost immediately, New York Governor Kathleen Hochul announced that New York would begin forbidding gas stoves in new buildings, and other states are weighing on whether to follow as well. Yet, it appears the narrative has a deeper agenda, potentially tied to the Green New Deal and the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.
Biden Appointee Proposes Ban on Gas Stoves Institute for Energy Research, January 17, 2023
A Commissioner of President Biden’s Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) wants a ban on indoor gas stoves. Richard Trumka Jr., a Biden commissioner on the CSPC, told Bloomberg the ban is justified because gas stoves increase respiratory problems such as asthma among children, which is a myth promoted by environmentalists whose real agenda is not to reduce asthma but to ban natural gas.
Biden Admin’s Gas Stove Crusade Is Just a Preview of What’s To Come Ben Lieberman, Daily Caller, January 16, 2023
It was an amazing media 180. Just days after a wave of stories about the threat to asthmatic children from natural gas stoves and the deliberations underway at the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to restrict or ban them, came a second wave of coverage insisting the Biden administration wasn’t targeting gas stoves and blaming Republicans for scare tactics. In between, of course, was a powerful public backlash against the idea of Washington micromanaging our kitchens in this manner. But the threat to gas stoves is very real and is far from the only regulatory attack on home appliances.
Meet the Green Energy Group Behind the Study That’s Driving Calls To Ban Gas Stoves Collin Anderson and Joseph Simonson, Washington Free Beacon, January 16, 2023
The green energy group behind a study cited in Consumer Product Safety commissioner Richard Trumka Jr.’s call to ban gas stoves has partnered with the Chinese government to implement an “economy-wide transformation” away from oil and gas. Colorado-based nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute, which published the December study that attributes 13 percent of U.S. childhood asthma cases to gas-stove use, is hardly staffed by an objective group of scientists.
What is the US “Gas Stove Ban” REALLY about? Kit Knightly, Off-Guardian, January 12, 2023.
What sounds like overreach, is actually a cover for something potentially far, far worse.
A US federal agency is considering a ban on gas stoves Ramishah Maruf, CNN, January 11, 2023
A federal agency is considering a ban on gas stoves, a source of indoor pollution linked to childhood asthma. Richard Trumka Jr., a US Consumer Product Safety commissioner, set off a firestorm this week by saying in an interview with Bloomberg that gas stoves posed a “hidden hazard” and suggested the agency could ban them. Trumka confirmed to CNN that “everything’s on the table” when it comes to gas stoves but stressed that any ban would apply only to new gas stoves, not existing ones.
US Safety Agency to Consider Ban on Gas Stoves Amid Health Fears Bloomberg, Ari Natter January 9, 2023
A federal agency says a ban on gas stoves is on the table amid rising concern about harmful indoor air pollutants emitted by the appliances. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission plans to take action to address the pollution, which can cause health and respiratory problems.
Consumer Product Safety Board To Weigh Regulations on Gas Stoves Rachel Frazin, The Hill, December 14, 2022
The U.S. agency in charge of making sure the country’s consumer products are safe will weigh regulations on new gas stoves, one of the board’s commissioners said on Wednesday. Richard Trumka Jr., a commissioner on the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), said … that the commission will put out a formal request by March for information on hazards associated with gas stoves and possible solutions.… Trumka … called an outright ban on new gas stoves “a real possibility.”
Mark Krebs, a mechanical engineer and energy policy consultant, has been involved with energy efficiency design and program evaluation for more than thirty years. He has served as an expert witness in dozens of State energy efficiency proceedings, has been an advisor to DOE and has submitted scores of Federal energy-efficiency filings. His many MasterResource posts on natural gas vs. electricity and “Deep Decarbonization” federal policy can be found here. Mark’s first article was in Public Utilities Fortnightly, titled “It’s a War Out There: A Gas Man Questions Electric Efficiency” (December 1996). Recently retired from Spire Inc., Krebs has formed an energy policy consultancy (Gas Analytic & Advocacy Services) with other veteran energy analysts.
Tom Tanton, Director of Science and Technology Assessment, Energy and Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal), has worked 45 years in energy and environmental policy, focused on enabling technology choice and economic development. Mr. Tanton has testified to numerous state Legislatures and Congress as an expert on energy policy. He formerly served as Principal Policy Advisor at the California Energy Commission. Tom’s archive of posts at MasterResource can be found here.