In 2019, Berkeley became the first city in the country to ban gas stoves and water heaters in all new construction in order to cut down greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change. Since then, dozens of others, including Seattle, San Francisco and New York, have followed suit with similar restrictions and President Biden has laid out an ambitious plan to help Americans ditch gas appliances and heaters in favor of electric ones.
“The United States can create good-paying jobs and cut emissions and energy costs for families by supporting efficiency upgrades and electrification in buildings through support for job-creating retrofit programs and sustainable affordable housing, wider use of heat pumps and induction stoves, and adoption of modern energy codes for new buildings,” the White House said of the plan on its website.
Mike Henchen, a principal at RMI, a nonprofit working to decarbonize energy systems, sees switching to electric stoves and water heaters as a key climate solution.
“The gas that we use in stoves, water heaters and furnaces is a fossil fuel that causes climate change and harms our health,” Henchen told Yahoo News. “There are options and alternatives to keep us warm, cook our food and take a hot shower that can be powered with cleaner energy sources.”
The natural gas industry, however, is vigorously fighting these proposed changes, and after it mounted lobbying and social media campaigns, states such as Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas have all recently passed prohibitions on local ordinances banning new gas hookups.
“Logically the natural gas industry does not want to see its business end, so it’s doing what it can to keep natural gas in the utility grid mix,” Marta Schantz, senior vice president of the Urban Land Institute’s Greenprint Center for Building Performance, told the Washington Post. “But long term, if cities are serious about their climate goals, electric buildings are inevitable.”
Carbon and methane emissions from buildings account for roughly 12 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, with the bulk of that coming from heating. As more Americans look for ways to reduce their carbon footprint, some have begun by replacing gas stoves and water heaters, which is much less expensive than swapping out gas-powered furnaces.
Gas stoves have also come under scrutiny because of health concerns.
“With gas stoves in particular, when you run a fire inside your kitchen, it’s producing pollution, and they are usually not ventilated out of your space,” Henchen said. “It can be if you run a hood over your cooktop, but we know that a lot of people don’t actually use those.”
In response to an article published last year in the Atlantic that advocated ditching gas stoves due to health and climate concerns, the American Gas Association issued a statement that sought to downplay the…