Americans love their gas stoves, but there’s a hidden danger lurking in every one of them: Cooking with gas can produce air pollution levels indoors that would exceed outdoor air safety standards. Something as simple and innocuous as making a meal can release pollutants into our homes that studies show lead to the development of asthma, especially in children, and may worsen symptoms for those with preexisting respiratory illnesses. One report compared the effects of using a gas stove around kids to those of second-hand smoke exposure.
Beyond creating health risks, the gas in our stoves is environmentally disastrous. It contains mostly methane, a short-lived but super-potent greenhouse gas that poses 80 times the climate-warming harm of carbon dioxide. Methane escapes into the atmosphere at every point of the supply chain, from extraction, to transmission, to the home (a recent study found that gas stoves leak methane even when turned off). And we use gas not just to cook, but also to heat our homes and water and do our laundry.
In all, our homes use a lot of methane gas, and that’s bad for the climate.
New and improved technologies are putting clean, efficient electric space heating, water heating and appliances within the reach of most American households. These products will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote healthier communities and some can save consumers money in the long-run.
With that in mind, local, state and federal governments should take the next step toward repowering America with 100 percent renewable energy by accelerating the transition of our homes away from fossil fuels and toward electric power. We should adopti smart public policies to encourage electrification of buildings, energy efficiency improvements and installation of distributed renewable energy sources such as solar panels and solar hot water systems. All of these things can help the nation achieve the goal of ending the direct burning of fossil fuels by mid-century.
The New York state legislature is currently debating a bill that would protect millions of New Yorkers from harmful indoor air pollution. The legislation would require all new buildings to use zero-emissions sources of heat, phasing out the use of gas in new homes starting in 2024. In the executive branch, Gov. Kathy Hochul has laid out a new target of electrifying 2 million homes by 2030, which would entail a tenfold increase in the current rate of adoption of electric heat. The governor’s plan includes new funding and policies to ensure electrification is possible in all communities.
If New York adopts this bill and enacts a detailed version of the governor’s plan to accelerate electrification, New York would become a national leader on clean and healthy homes – and would take a big step toward meeting its climate goals. One key point of contention right now is whether the bill would take effect in 2023, or not be implemented until 2027. New York should embrace its status as a leader on climate and public health and be ambitious in its plans to protect residents from indoor air pollution.
The old saying is “all politics are local.” Nothing’s more local than our homes. And it turns out, home is one of the best places where we can tackle the challenge of our generation: climate change.
Director, Environment Campaigns, PIRG
Matt oversees PIRG's toxics, transportation and zero waste campaigns and leads PIRG’s climate program to promote a cleaner, healthier future for all Americans. Matt lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, with his wife, two daughters and chihuahua.