The ongoing American culture war has found a new divisive topic over which to argue… gas stoves. The future of this kitchen appliance — used by more than 47 million Americans — has the focus of news outlets like Fox News, CNN, and more. One side argues that these stoves are dangerous for humans, while others contend that the consequences are marginal and this is just another way big governments are trying to control their citizens. So, let’s take a closer look.
Many households in developed economies like the United States use gas stoves which have historically been thought of as a clean and healthy cooking method. Indoor air pollution from other types of stoves is a worldwide issue that affects millions of people every year, typically among those who use wood, biomass, or charcoal for cooking fuel. The resulting respiratory issues lead to an estimated 3 million deaths annually, according to the World Health Organization. While most households using gas have had clear advantages in ease of use and human health effects compared to these alternatives, studies dating back to the 1970s have shown that gas stoves are an imperfect solution.
Gas stoves create indoor air pollutants like PM2.5, nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and benzene. Alarmingly, studies have found that gas stoves can emit these pollutants even when they are not turned on due to leakages. More recent studies have found that gas stoves can also leak methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Methane, when it escapes into the atmosphere, is around 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide according to the EPA. Moreover, methane contributes to ground-level ozone, which is harmful to humans.
Developed countries have seen the evolution of substitutes with electric stoves (which now make up over 60% of stoves in the US) and more recently a new sleek technology: the induction stove. Induction stoves use electromagnetic energy which makes the pan the heat source. This leaves stovetops cooler, which decreases burn risks, while other positive reviews note that induction pans are easier to clean, more precise, and can even boil water faster! Some chefs have started to prefer this new method of cooking.
The major drawback is the high upfront cost of induction stoves. Switching to this new technology is likely to cost thousands of dollars, making this market eerily akin to the electric vehicle market. Most users at first will be disproportionally wealthy individuals, but as costs come down, it will reach an increasing number of Americans. The U.S. Government also sees this parallel, as it has put in place tax credits and rebates for high-efficiency home products similar to measures taken to make EVs attainable.
So, as politically leaning news networks use this as fodder to create another culture war, with hosts already protesting a nationwide ban, and politicians giving quotes like this, know that what is more likely is the government continuing to incentivize Americans to cook in a safer way. This carrots over sticks method will facilitate a transition to a safer and more efficient product, similar to any other technological evolution.
Isaac Eskind, Analyst
This story from Fast Company chronicles how some U.S. cities are banning gas stoves in all new buildings. To counteract these measures, 20 U.S. states outlawed gas bans. This article has a great map showing states with bans and states that have outlawed bans.
One startup addressing issues of indoor air pollution in developing nations is Mukuru Clean Stoves. The CEO has an incredible story and we at Flat World Partners love their impact!
Interested to know whether your existing fleet of pots and pans can be used on an induction stove top? A quick review of this short article should be able to help. A sneak peak: It is all about magnetism.
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