New Study Reveals How Your Gas Stove Could Be Harmful To The Environment

Anyone who has been tapped into environmental news over the past few years has probably noticed the political back and forth over natural gas, which The New Republic explained in March 2021 releases a considerable amount of methane into the atmosphere. Months later, more evidence has come to light that the gas used to power stoves is not the clean source it was once advertised as.

On January 27, findings of a report written by a team of researchers at Stanford University showed that over the last two decades, the annual use of gas stoves in the U.S. had a "climate impact comparable to the annual carbon dioxide emissions of 500,000 cars." Grist explains that this is due, in part, to how methane leaks from the stove in the moments before it is ignited. Brady Seals, a manager in the Carbon-Free Buildings program at RMI, gave Grist insight into the way gas stoves work: "There are over 3 million miles of gas pipelines in the US, and when we are looking at a gas stove, we are basically looking at the end of a pipeline."

Most of the stoves studied leaked at least 10 milligrams of methane per hour, even when not in use. When in use, the amount becomes "4.5 times higher." The lead author of the study, Eric Lebel, reassured Grist that the amount of methane usually leaked poses no "immediate" risk to the household. It does, however, contribute to smog, which can impact those with respiratory conditions.

Some cities are trying to phase out gas

Since methane is a greenhouse gas, some are trying to phase out our reliance on it. For example, Vox reported in December 2021 that New York City wanted to ban gas from all newly constructed buildings. Between the bigger emitters of water heaters and gas heating and the smaller contributions made by gas stoves, reducing their presence would go some way towards meeting a sustainable urban environment. Or, as Pete Sikora, campaigns director for New York Communities for Change, stated, "New York City is stepping up on one crucial aspect of fighting the climate crisis."

Such a transition will not be smooth. Crosscut notes that pushback on an attempt to remove gas from Bellingham, WA came from homeowners who are reluctant to change and restaurant operators who do not believe that their business model can rely on a purely electric power source. Such worries were fed by pamphlets published by "a building industry group, with the support of Cascade Natural Gas" that predicted home prices would jump to unaffordable levels if buildings had to be renovated to accommodate the transition.

In March 2021, Energy News reported preemptive measures taken by the state legislature of North Carolina that banned local governments from banning gas in new buildings. The piece notes that despite the warnings of climate scientists, the legislature listened to the gas industry which supported the bill. Only time will tell if this new study has any impact on legislation nationwide.