Wednesday, April 17, 2024
    HomeBusinessBiden to set efficiency standards for gas stoves amid GOP backlash

    Biden to set efficiency standards for gas stoves amid GOP backlash

    The topic of gas stoves ignited a heated debate last year when a Biden appointee suggested they could be banned because they posed a risk to human health.

    But a ban isn’t in the works — and on Monday the administration finalized a scaled-back plan to make new stoves less energy-intensive.

    The Energy Department’s rules require modest energy-efficiency requirements for gas and electric stoves and ovens. The move, part of a broader effort to curb planet-warming emissions from household appliances, could prompt political backlash even though it reflects a compromise with U.S. manufacturers.

    The rules — first reported by The Washington Post — would not affect the stoves in people’s kitchens or those currently on the market. They would not instruct American families “how to cook their dinner,” as Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) put it last year.

    Still, they could create new frictions. In the past, conservative lawmakers have sought to depict Biden as a climate radical intent on meddling with some of the most prized possessions of Americans — their home appliances — and driving up costs in the process.

    The standards, which would apply to stoves manufactured in 2028 or later, could increase the price tags of a few new models by a few dollars. But in the long run, the improved efficiency would save consumers money on their gas and electricity bills.

    In February, the agency issued a proposed rule that called for about half of gas stoves on the market to become more energy-efficient. But the final rule is set to affect only 3 percent of gas stoves and 23 percent of electric stoves on the market.

    “The vast majority of cooktop models — both electric and gas — will meet the standard as they exist today without modification,” said an Energy Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly. “Consumers will still be able to buy the same cooking products.”

    Under the rules, electric stoves would be required to use 30 percent less energy annually than the lowest-performing models today. Gas stoves and electric ovens would need to use 7 percent less energy, while gas ovens would need to use 4 percent less.

    The rules resemble a September deal that home appliance manufacturers reached with environmental and consumer advocates. Under the terms of the deal, the manufacturers agreed to support efficiency levels and compliance dates for regulation of six products: stoves, dishwashers, refrigerators and freezers, beverage and wine chillers, clothes washers and clothes dryers.

    The manufacturers said that if the Energy Department followed their recommendations, they would not challenge the package of six standards in court.

    “It was quite a process, but we’re very supportive of where we got with the package of standards,” said Jill Notini, vice president of communications and marketing at the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers.

    The rules will not result in the elimination of gas stoves and other gas appliances, which some Republicans have claimed is the administration’s ultimate agenda.

    “Next up on the Biden Administration’s radical green agenda chopping block are Americans’ gas stoves,” Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Tex.) said in a statement before a May hearing titled “Consumer Choice on the Backburner.”

    “Democrats want to control every aspect of our lives. … Consumers should have choice!” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) wrote on Tuesday on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. Cruz has introduced legislation that would prohibit the federal government from banning gas stoves.

    Yet the rules “aren’t some backdoor attempt to ban gas stoves,” said Joe Vukovich, a staff attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “I think it pushes back on some of the very heated rhetoric that was going around.”

    The controversy over gas stove regulations boiled over in January 2023, when a member of the Consumer Product Safety Commission said in an interview that he had not ruled out a ban on the appliances. The commission later backtracked and clarified that it was not planning a ban, although it was studying possible ways of curbing gas stoves’ emissions.

    Biden administration officials have also repeatedly disavowed their desire to ban the appliances, even as some Democratic officials seek to restrict gas use at the local or state level.

    “Nobody’s taking my gas stove. Nobody will take your gas stove,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm testified on Capitol Hill last year.

    In a statement, Granholm said the new standards will not just save energy, but over 30 years, they will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 4 million metric tons. According to the Energy Department, that’s roughly equivalent to the combined annual emissions associated with the power use of 500,000 households.

    Are induction stoves that much safer than gas? We tested them.

    If the Energy Department adopts all six recommendations in the deal with appliance makers, a typical U.S. household would save about $120 a year in lower utility bills, according to an analysis by the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, a consumer and environmental coalition.

    “The gas stove debate has been a distracting sideshow,” said Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project. “What’s important is that the Biden administration is updating a range of efficiency standards that collectively will deliver significant bill savings for middle-class families.”

    Research has shown that gas stoves can emit nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant that can trigger asthma and other respiratory conditions, as well as methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. In response to these findings, Democratic officials have increasingly sought to curb use of the fossil fuel in newly constructed buildings.

    On Wednesday, the Chicago City Council began considering an ordinance that would effectively ban gas use in most new buildings. If Chicago adopts the ordinance, it would follow in the footsteps of big cities including Boston, Denver and Seattle, as well as the state of New York.

    In 2019, Berkeley, Calif., became the first U.S. city to ban gas infrastructure in most new building projects. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit struck down Berkeley’s ban in April, dealing a blow to the city and about two dozen other municipalities in California that had enacted similar mandates. Experts are still debating the implications of the ruling for cities with gas bans outside the Golden State.



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