Cooks push back against gas stove bans
We’ve written before about how some local governments have stopped issuing permits for natural gas hookups in residential and commercial projects, mandating instead that such projects be electric-power only.
The intention: curbing carbon emissions, reasoning that the electricity coming from the plug could be renewable energy, while a natural gas heater or stove isn’t.
It sounds good on paper to those who believe all-electric is the way to go. But there’s some pushback to the idea, and it’s coming from those who make their livings cooking with gas:
Many restaurant and home chefs prefer cooking on gas-burning ranges, and persuading some to switch to electric stovetops is proving to be a hard sell—a sentiment the natural-gas industry has seized on to rally opposition to new local ordinances.
Several cities, including San Francisco and Seattle, have given ground on the issue by exempting stoves from natural-gas bans, or providing pathways for restaurants to secure waivers in an attempt to minimize blowback.
The pushback on stoves demonstrates one of the challenges of reducing the emissions linked to climate change: Consumers may have to make personal sacrifices by giving up things they use and enjoy in favor of less familiar technologies.
George Chen, executive chef and founder of San Francisco restaurant China Live, said he was concerned about cities restricting a cooking technique that contributes to the texture and flavor of good Chinese cuisine that he said can’t be achieved on an electric stove.
“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,” Mr. Chen said. “But to say that an electric stove is as good as a gas one is misunderstanding the art of cooking.”
Esthetic objections are one thing. Data is another:
Gas stoves’ contributions to emissions are negligible compared with the gas used to heat homes and water. Less than 3% of natural-gas use in homes comes from cooking on gas stoves, according to a 2015 residential energy survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
But let’s not forget the game being played here:
An initial proposal for restrictions on new natural-gas hookups in Brookline, Mass., covered gas stoves, but those were eventually exempted. The town still needs state approval to enact its ban.
Practically, it made more sense to “go after the big stuff first,” said state Rep. Tommy Vitolo, a Democrat who represents Brookline 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,” he said.
The gas range may survive – for a while. But in the long run, whatever catharsis gas cooking provides will not be enough to overcome a politician’s regulatory fervor.