Saturday, March 25, 2023

Gas Stoves

Remember how America was up in arms about gas stoves?  Pepperidge Farm remembers, perhaps, but we don't.

We've forgotten about it now, because a whole month has passed and human beings are fickle and easily distracted.  But it was the hubbub-of-the-day for a couple of weeks, for all of the usual reasons.  It was a false, overdrawn narrative, like most manufactured crises.

A single unguarded comment from an EPA administrator was picked up, misrepresented, and blown wildly out of proportion by right wing media.  As close to half of American households cook with gas, and gas cooking only contributes 0.1% of America's harmful emissions, it's basically a non-issue, utterly marginal as a contributor to climate change.  For the far-right, though, that makes it perfect as a wedge issue.  You can rile hundreds of millions of citizens with the imagined threat that they'll be forced to replace a basic and expensive appliance.  That, and people actually prefer gas.  Electric ovens and cooktops are an inferior cooking experience.  I've had both, and there's just no comparison. 

For progressives, this became yet another opportunity to show that progressives have no idea how to pick their battles.  Is this a significant problem?  No.  Does pursuing the issue rile a substantial portion of the population?  It does.  But if the right is against it, then the left will be for it, and vicey versey, so once more into the breach!

For several weeks, every progressive I know was suddenly focused on the evils of gas stoves.  Opportunistic "studies" showed that gas stoves contributed to climate change.  "As much as 500,000 cars," one activist opined, without noting that America has over 250,000,000 registered vehicles.

Again, that's zero point one percent.

And sure, spaces where you regularly cook with every industrial kitchen in every restaurant everywhere...should be well ventilated.  Particulate emissions are a thing, and the data there about health impacts is real and acknowledged by all.  

But our primary areas for significant reduction of fossil fuel use are transportation, agriculture, and home heating.  In those areas, increases in efficiency or transitions to less polluting electric options can have a large impact. 

In the long struggle to adapt to climate change and reduce its impact, we'll need to keep our eyes on the prize, rather than chasing after every single little thing.