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First, Biden came for your gas stove. Next, Democrats will come for your gas heater

The commissioner of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Richard Trumka Jr., recently said his agency is considering banning gas stoves because they can cause asthma in children, among other health and respiratory maladies.

Trumka called gas stoves “a hidden hazard,” and further said, “Any option is on the table.

“Products that can’t be made safe can be banned,” he added.

However, after just a few days of intense backlash from Republicans and conservative media, the Biden administration appeared to suddenly reverse course. On Wednesday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that Biden “does not support banning gas stoves.”

It’s good news that the Biden administration appears to have caved on its reckless gas-stove proposal, but not every Democrat is as easily persuaded.

Gas-powered stoves or other appliances and heaters powered by natural gas have been banned in new constructions in nearly 100 cities and counties, including in New York City and San Francisco.

Further, lawmakers in at least 20 states have also proposed similar prohibitions. In 2022, Washington State lawmakers banned natural gas appliances in new buildings in 2023.

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New York governor Kath Hochul, a Democrat, recently offered a sweeping proposal to ban both natural gas heaters and all appliances, including stoves, in new buildings in the state. If the proposal is passed into law, the ban on natural-gas-powered appliances would begin its phase-in period in 2025. And starting in 2030, new natural-gas heating systems would also be prohibited.

Unlike with the White House’s recent plan, there’s no sign that most other Democratic proposals will be reversed anytime soon.

Supporters of banning the use of natural-gas-powered appliances often claim it can cause health hazards like childhood asthma, an important assertion because tens of millions of homes rely on natural gas today. More than 40 million Americans use gas stoves, and the US Energy Information Administration reports, “About half of the homes in the United States use natural gas for space heating and water heating.”

But do appliances like gas stoves actually present an increased risk of asthma for children or pose other health dangers? In short, the answer is no, so long as proper ventilation is present.

And even when it isn’t, experts are divided and the evidence is mixed when it comes to certain correlations between the use of gas-powered appliances and health problems.

Despite getting a lot of attention, the study cited by the CPSC is a weak meta-analysis of previous studies. The researchers didn’t analyze all of the available research. They cherry-picked data from studies that fit their predetermined conclusion while ignoring other data from studies that did not reiterate their preferred assumptions.

Previous reviews of the available research have found, “It’s not clear whether gas stoves are a significant likely cause of health problems, because households have many other potential sources of indoor pollution too.” But even if gas stoves and other gas-powered appliances and heating systems do contribute to the development of childhood asthma or other health issues, there is no reason to ban them.

The study cited by CPSC claims just “12.7% … of current childhood asthma in the US is attributable to gas stove use,” about 762,000 children. The alleged reason for the association is that cooking over natural gas in poorly ventilated kitchens releases respiratory irritants into the air, some of which have been associated with causing asthma.

If this is true — and again, some researchers claim it isn’t — why not fix the alleged problem by improving ventilation? That would not only alleviate fears over childhood asthma and other health problems, it would do so without government bans and restrictions on the free market.

Even those who are concerned about the use of gas-powered appliances acknowledge this is a reasonable approach. For example, the Massachusetts Medical Society, which has published articles claiming that natural gas stoves are connected to pediatric asthma, has also said “simple actions” like “Using exhaust fans that ventilate to the outdoors when cooking with a gas stove” and “Using HEPA air purifiers with carbon filters” would avert the potential health risks associated with natural gas cooking.

So, instead of banning gas stoves and other gas-powered appliances and heating systems, as many Democrats are now suggesting, policymakers should consider changing building standards so that new constructions use better ventilation.

In general, gas stoves and gas-powered heaters are arguably safer and perform better than electric alternatives. For example, gas stoves ignite quickly and heat food faster than electric stoves. And once the burner is shut off, the risk of unintended burn is minimal. Additionally, gas stoves typically work during a power outage, unlike electric stoves, and they are more durable and last longer than their electric counterparts.

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It seems obvious that a ban on gas-powered appliances and heating systems is unnecessary. What is the real reason, then, for why Democrats across America are suddenly so interested in banning them?

It could be that Democrats, who have long suggested natural gas is contributing to a dire climate crisis, have chosen to invent new justifications for destroying the natural gas industry. Most American voters don’t view climate change as a top priority, but perhaps Democrats think a good old-fashioned health scare will do the trick.

Whatever the real reasons are behind the sudden urgency to eliminate gas-powered appliances and heating systems, one thing is abundantly clear: there is no good justification for government to take away Americans’ ability to use natural gas, an extremely efficient, reliable, safe source of energy. It doesn’t pose significant health hazards, as some of falsely claimed, and whatever risks do exist can easily be reduced using simple, affordable, common-sense reforms.

Chris Talgo is a research fellow at Heartland’s Socialism Research Center.

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