Pompous PBS: ‘Why Are So Many Americans and [GOP] Lawmakers Still Enthralled With Gas?’

News & Politics

The Thursday evening edition of the PBS NewsHour devoted 11 minutes to the apparent foolishness…of cooking with gas. Science correspondent Miles O’Brien condescendingly mocked anyone who would dare not throw out their gas stoves and purchase more expensive induction stoves, given the obvious health hazards of natural gas (a danger the liberal press learned about a few days go and won’t stop shrieking over).

The sudden gas-stove brouhaha began with the release of a meta-analysis of past studies that showed correlation but not necessarily causation between gas stoves and asthma. No dissent appeared in the segment, certainly no mention of studies with opposite conclusions, like one by the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood,

O’Brien fostered the idea of regulation by anecdote while in the kitchen of an asthmatic Bronx woman, Maria Espada, who claimed she coughed when her gas stove was turned on.

Next came a tacky promotional clip extolling gas (presumably from the gas industry) complete with silly rap music, giving O’Brien an opening for a bad pun:

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When questioned about costs by host Geoff Bennett (from O’Brien’s home kitchen), O’Brien downplayed the cost increase. When Bennett asked O’Brien “why do professional chefs still use gas?” the correspondent answered with more condescension, likening expert chefs to cavemen.

Suddenly, liberals don’t assume experts know best.

PBS NewsHour

January 19, 2023


Host Geoff Bennett: There’s been quite a bit of heated debate lately about gas stoves and potential government regulation. The fire was lit last week after recent studies linked asthma with the use of gas stoves. And a member of a federal consumer agency briefly suggested that perhaps the federal government might even ban them in newly built homes. But that was quickly shot down by the White House.

Still, there’s new focus on the health impact and possible alternatives. In fact, there are even some new government incentives for swapping out older stoves. Miles O’Brien has been looking into all of this and has our report.

O’Brien: Maria Espada was happily cooking without gas, long before a political stew started boiling over in Washington.

Larry Kudlow, Fox Business: Right now, you have this campaign by these left-wing groups to end gas burning stoves.

Unidentified Male newscaster voice: Teasing a potential federal ban on gas stoves?

Unidentified Female anchor: A ban on gas stoves.

Unidentified Female anchor: The link between your gas stove and childhood asthma.

Fox Business Host Degan McDowell: Gas stoves don’t cause asthma. There is no research proving that, chef.

O’Brien: No ban is currently in the works. But cooking with gas is the latest battle in the culture war. Since last year, Maria has used an electric oven with an induction cooktop.

Espada: Oh beautiful. And it will be done very quick.

O’Brien: It replaced a gas range. Maria has lived in this New York City housing authority apartment in the Bronx for 44 years.

O’Brien: When you first heard about an electric stove, did you think ‘I like cooking with gas?’ Or were you ready to change?

Espada: I was not ready, but I thought of one thing. My asthma. Every time I would turn it on, I would start coughing.

O’Brien: Really?

Espada: Yes, I would start coughing. So it was the gas. Unfortunately, that is what I noticed. It was the gas.

O’Brien: She is part of a pilot program hoping to refine the recipe for the big switch away from fossil fuels. New York City has committed to reducing its carbon footprint by 80% in 2050. And here, about 70% of greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings.

Annie Carfaro, We Act for Environmental Justice: The electrification of existing buildings is going to be a complex challenge, and what we don’t want to see is communities of color, low-income communities, affordable housing residents being left behind in that transition.

O’Brien: Annie Carfaro is a climate change campaign coordinator for the non-profit We Act. It is helping study the transition, installing an array of air-quality sensors in kitchens with electric and gas appliances.

Carfaro: We’re looking to see the change in air quality over six months in this building, and also to study the challenges and opportunities of electrification and affordable housing.

O’Brien: This has led them to an important conclusion. Methane is a greenhouse gas that harms the climate, but burning it also has a more immediate impact right at home.

Carfaro: The results right now are showing that cooking with gas in apartments leads to incredibly high levels of harmful pollutants that really hurt our health.

O’Brien: As methane, or natural gas, burns, it triggers a reaction between nitrogen and oxygen which creates nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide, pollutants known as Nox. They cause all sorts of cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses, including asthma. The latest study published in December compared data on nationwide asthma rates and gas stove usage and concluded 12.7 percent of current childhood asthma in the U.S. is attributable to gas stove use. No surprise to Rob Jackson.

Rob Jackson: and then put the fans.

Unidentified Woman: On the grounds, close all the windows.

O’Brien: He is a professional of environmental sciences at Stanford University. He and his team are focused on finding methane wherever it may be. He spends a lot of time sampling the air in kitchens equipped with gas ranges.

Jackson: We take a series of measurements before we light it. We measure how much methane comes when you turn the thing on and off. Then we measure how much is coming when the flame is on.

O’Brien: Jackson’s team also samples beyond the kitchen.

Jackson: The Nox that’s generated in the kitchen spread not surprisingly doesn’t say there it spreads throughout the house. You get above these thresholds in adjacent bedrooms where there is no hood and no expectation that you would find those gases in the air that you breathe.

O’Brien: In the Bronx, a few floors away from Maria Espada, researcher Misbath Daouda is on her own hunt for indoor air-quality data.

Ayanna Kai-Sutton: Are you hungry?

Son: Yeah.

O’Brien: It was lunchtime at Ayanna Kai-Sutton’s apartment.

Kai-Sutton Are you going to help me?

O’Brien: She cooks with gas. A Ph.D. candidate in climate and health at Columbia University, Daouda recorded Nitrogen Dioxide levels nearly 40 times greater than World Health Organization daily guidelines.

Daouda: So if you look at this, the level here is 500 ppb, which is huge.

O’Brien: That’s parts per billion.

Daouda: Parts per billion.

O’Brien: And that’s huge?

Daouda: That is huge. The guideline for NO2 is about 13 ppb.

O’Brien: This is also five times greater than the EPA one-hour air standard for Nox. But there are no rules in the U.S. governing indoor pollution, even though that is where we spend most of our time.

Daouda: People who experience asthma are on the frontlines of climate change because a lot of the sources you know of carbon emissions also are producing these pollutants that exacerbate asthma.

O’Brien: While gas stoves are looking less attractive, electric cooktop technology has learned some new tricks. Traditional electric stoves are inefficient. They create heat by simply resisting the electric current. But newer induction cooktops use electricity to create a magnetic field. The electrons inside pots and pans that contain iron try to align with the magnet, vibrating tens of thousands of times per second, creating friction and heat. The result is better energy efficiency, faster cooking, and no combustion fumes. So why are so many Americans and Republican lawmakers still enthralled with gas? 

Tacky commercial clip with rap music: Gas!

O’Brien: For decades, the fossil fuel industry has spent heavily to promote the idea that gas is superior. But it’s a bad rap, in more ways than one.

Tacky commercial clip with rap music: Cooking with gas, cooking with gas. We all cook better when we’re cooking with gas.

O’Brien: And here in the Bronx, the word is spreading. The study documented a 35% reduction in daily Nitrogen Dioxide concentrations for those who switched from gas to electric. Now that the results are in, Ayanna Kai-Sutton has her new electric range.

Kai-Sutton: I am excited of course to get rid of this old-school gas stove and get with the new, you know. And of course, if it’s anything I can do, that can, you know, make the smallest change in the world, then of course I am down to help.

O’Brien: It turns out the climate crisis is also an air pollution crisis. If we can stop burning things, fast, we can all breathe a little easier.

Bennett: Miles joins us now from his kitchen to answer more questions about induction stoves. So let’s talk dollars and cents. If someone wants to install an induction cooktop range in their home, how much will it cost?

O’Brien: Alright before I do that, I want to start the tea kettle water boiling just so you can see how quickly that happens on an induction stove. OK. Basically, a low-end induction range is $1200. A low-end gas range is about $1000. You might have to upgrade your electricity to 220 or 240 (Volts?) that’s gonna cost you about $300.

Now if you want to save money or you’re renting and you can’t change out your appliance, you can use something like this. This is a cooking plate. Not even a hot plate. It is an actual full-up burner that will do everything that this induction range will do for about $250. There’s cheaper ones like this one here, that’s about $150. You can actually do that immediately. So there are inexpensive ways to do this if you are concerned. There you go.

Bennett: Boiled water what was that in 30 seconds?

O’Brien: About 30 seconds, not bad.

Bennett: So Miles, why do professional chefs still use gas? I am sure a lot of people assume if pros use gas, that is best.

O’Brien: Absolutely. You know as much as anything, it is tradition Geoff. And this is a transition we’re going through. We are trying to electrify our society in order to address the climate change problem. And of course we have an indoor air pollution problem as well. But in professional kitchens, there is an assumption that the only way to do it is to light a flame, which is what cavemen did to cook.

This is changing. Some of the top restaurants in the world particularly in Europe and in Asia are all induction and have been for some time. There is more resistance here in the U.S., and some of that has to do with the fossil-fuel industry doing a pretty effective campaign to convince people that electric is not as good.

Bennett: Miles there is some question about the types of pots and pans that work with induction. Tell us more about that.

O’Brien: Yeah, this is an issue that comes up quite a bit. It is cooking with magnetic fields so it has to have a pot or pan that is magnetic, or ferrous, is the term. Everything you see here works just fine because it has some iron in it one way or another. So there’s lots of variety out there. You cannot use things like this, ceramic, because obviously that is not magnetic. If you have a whole bunch of aluminum pots and pans, you have to retire those as well. But it is not like you have to get some specialized kind of cookware.

Bennett: You have a vent hood it looks like in your kitchen. Is that necessary for an induction cooktop?

O’Brien: Not as important as it is with gas. But I will tell you this. One of the things people should think about if they’re still using a gas stove and continue to do so, use that vent hood and make sure the vent hood is vented outside. Not one of those that recirculate that’s not going to do you any good at all. Lots of people don’t bother turning on the vent hood, that goes a long way to improving the air quality in your kitchen.

Bennett: Miles O’Brien, thanks so much for sharing that reporting with us and inviting us into your kitchen. We appreciate it. 

This biased segment was paid for in part by Consumer Cellular, and viewers like you.

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