In recent months, politics has tossed gas-powered appliances into the center of heated debates, with one side of the debate heated by natural gas and the other by electric. News that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) was considering a ban on gas stoves in January fueled the flames, and in the same month, Los Angeles became the largest city in California to ban natural gas appliances in new buildings.
The CSPC clarified that it is not planning on banning gas stoves, but it cited health hazards due to indoor air pollutants as concerns related to gas stoves. While natural gas appliances do pose both health and environmental concerns, extreme regulations and bans on gas appliances places too much reliance on electric appliances and will presumably lead to energy challenges.
Over the years, stoves and other household appliances have become caught up in the electric wave sweeping through the U.S. in response to climate change concerns. In fact, by 2020, only 38% of households had a gas stove, according to Statista. However, California had a higher percentage of gas stoves than much of the rest of the U.S., with 70% of households having gas stoves.
I grew up in Los Angeles County with a gas stove, and the surge toward phasing out natural gas in the state concerns me in light of my own experiences with the state’s energy grid. I have grown accustomed to power outages, and rolling blackouts have become unsurprising. For example, in 2020, many Californians experienced rolling blackouts during a heat wave due to heightened energy use and inadequate energy supplies in the state.
In fact, just this week, my family lost their power for nearly 24 consecutive hours. During those power outages, our gas-powered stove becomes more essential than ever. It becomes our only way to cook and heat water.
Now, as California careens toward an all-electric future with ambitious plans to phase out the sale of gas-powered vehicles by 2035 and to implement an entirely carbon-free electricity grid by 2045, I am becoming increasingly alarmed that the state’s electricity blips will only worsen. How can we reasonably trust a grid that has already begun to fail?
The concerns regarding natural gas have merit. Natural gas can negatively impact air and water quality. For example, leakage during fracking — the extraction process for natural gas — can pollute the air. Without proper ventilation, indoor air pollutants associated with gas appliances have also been linked to respiratory diseases, according to a 2022 study in Environmental Science and Technology. However, natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel and, when fracking and ventilation practices are properly employed, it does not need to pose a health threat.
Eliminating natural gas from the energy grid places a significant reliance on renewable energy resources and fails to acknowledge a new host of environmental concerns associated with rapidly transitioning to a carbon-free society. Currently, renewable energy sources lack efficiency and consistency, and other concerns such as down-the-chain fossil fuel emissions threaten to revoke their “clean energy” label.
Transitioning to fully electric appliances in households place all our eggs in one basket, so to speak — we will be relying on only one primary energy source. Without assurance of the consistency of renewable energies and a constantly increasing strain on the energy grid, I expect that the electricity grid will inevitably fail more often.
As a Californian who has experienced too many power failures already, I am not willing to take a chance on going all electric in my home. While we should be aware of potential health hazards and find ways to safely work with gas appliances to minimize risks, we are not ready for a widespread restriction on appliances powered by natural gas.
When the state shows me that it can handle a full-scale transition to electricity without overshooting the boundaries of its energy grid, perhaps I will consider it.