Opinion: Americans can turn up the heat to save gas stoves

This commentary is by Jon Sanders, a senior fellow in the Center for American Prosperity at America First Policy Institute.

Recent debate regarding a potential ban of gas-fired stoves has provided a fresh example of the Biden administration’s callous regulatory bent. Public backlash, however, could cause them to put the notion on the back burner.

The idea has been brewing for a while, but the American public first learned of it from a Jan. 9 Bloomberg News interview with U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. In this interview, Trumka declared the stoves a “hidden hazard” and said that “Any option is on the table. Products that can’t be made safe can be banned.”

The news created a national uproar. Nearly 40% of homes and a large majority of professional kitchens use gas-fired stoves. In response, Sens. Ted Cruz and Joe Manchin filed a bipartisan bill to prevent a CPSC ban.

Biden regulators were taken aback and even seemed a little cowed by the backlash. They tried to cool people’s ire but they got it all wrong. They seemed to think folks feared feds barging in and taking their stoves. But people are worried about runaway regulation.

For example, Bloomberg reported, “Nearly 100 cities and counties,” including New York City, are already moving in the direction of regulating gas stoves into oblivion.

States, too. In 2022, California’s Air Resources Board made it illegal to sell gas-fired stoves and water heaters could by 2030. That same year, New York passed a law to would use building code regulations “to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” and regulators are already talking about banning gas-fired stoves, water heaters and space heaters. Minnesota lawmakers are now seeking to replicate that law.

Meanwhile, the governor of North Carolina released a “Deep Decarbonization” report that included “Building Decarbonization,” which would require all new homes, apartments and businesses to be 100% electric (appliances, heating, water heaters) and explore retrofitting the rest.

Nevertheless, in a CNN interview, Trumka said “if and when” the commission chooses to act, “it applies to new products.” CPSC Chairman Alex Hoehn-Saric tweeted that, “Contrary to recent media reports, I am not looking to ban gas stoves, and CPSC has no proceeding to do so.”

But he followed it by saying “later this spring, we will be asking the public to provide us information about gas stove emissions and potential solutions” (which is how regulation starts). Even U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Jennifer Granholm called it “so ridiculous … [b]ecause, it sounds like government’s coming in to take your stuff. That is so not true. That is just not true.”

Then on Feb. 1, the DOE brought forth rules to establish strict energy-use limits on stoves, especially gas-fired models. Though the DOE hastened to add that it was not proposing bans, The Wall Street Journal noted that the proposed rule would behave as a de facto ban because it would “eliminate most current models” of gas stoves.

As much as 95% of the market could not meet the proposed limits, according to early estimates from the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM). Jill Notini, AHAM vice president of communications and marketing, told Bloomberg that “This approach by the DOE could effectively ban gas appliances.”

There is little reason to think regulation would begin and end with these sudden new efficiency limits. Writing in Forbes, David Blackmon called the rules “an obvious ‘camel’s nose under the tent’ first step in moving towards a ban,” which “has long been a goal of environmentalist groups who support Democratic election candidates.”

Not to mention that the CPSC shoe has yet to drop. Last October, when Trumka unsuccessfully brought an amendment before the CPSC to regulate the stoves, he got commissioners to agree to seek public input. In a December news conference, he spoke of the need for regulating gas stoves, stressing, “I think we ought to keep that possibility of a ban in mind, because it’s a powerful tool in our tool belt and it’s a real possibility here.”

Trumka announced then that the CPSC would start the process of gathering information from the public, which he said would result in regulation starting in 2023. That’s the nature of the regulatory beast. Sweeping decisions adversely impacting the general public are routinely made in the bureaucratic fog of informal, notice-and-comment rulemaking. “The public,” of course, are not the general public, but special interests, industry cronies and ideologues who know how to navigate the process. They bank on most people being too busy working for their families to get tangled up in it.

One reason why public talk of a gas-stove ban so inflamed Americans is that we’re used to finding out about these regulatory smash-and-grabs only after the fact. Laws are made by elected legislators in an open, uncertain deliberate process full of coalition building across parties, two chambers and often also the president.

In stark contrast, administrative rules are crafted by unelected bureaucrats using a system that’s more ritual dance than deliberative process. Unlike laws, a rule once dreamed up takes on the air of a fait accompli. Seen in this light, the DOE moving to regulate gas stoves in concert with the CPSC talking of the same is no accident; it’s exemplary of the foreordained regulatory conclusion.

The good news could be that forewarned is forearmed. The regulators seemed surprised by how upset people were when they heard about gas stove regulations in the works. So if the people turn up the heat, maybe Biden’s bureaucrats will stay out of the kitchen.

Image courtesy of Public domain

2 thoughts on “Opinion: Americans can turn up the heat to save gas stoves

  1. “The regulators seemed surprised by how upset people were when they heard about gas stove regulations in the works.”

    The regulators are going to receive an avalanche of surprises if any of this crap becomes law.

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