Fossil fuel die-hards are fighting electrification of the economy with the lamest of arguements

  • Published on May 6th, 2020

On Earth Day, hundreds, if not thousands, of op-eds were published about climate, the environment, and energy. But one in particular seems to have caught the attention of the gas industry. Judging by their response, they consider it a threat. Richard Oberg, an energy efficiency official at Sacramento’s nonprofit utility, wrote about the benefits of electrifying home appliances in UtilityDive. He described how the switch from gas-powered heat and stoves to electric can save consumers money, save the utilities’ energy, and save the environment from the emissions that result from burning gas.

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By Climate Denier Roundup

In response, the Independent Petroleum Association of America published a blog post at its Energy in Depth site attempting to rebut Oberg’s op-ed. What it really did, however, was show the emptiness of the industry’s argument, which relies almost exclusively on reports from the gas industry itself to claim that its product is cheaper or more efficient than electricity.

Basically the only thing in the op-ed that isn’t from the gas industry itself is a ConsumerAffairs page that compares gas and electric appliances with broad oversimplifications like that “all gas appliances can save you up to 30 percent on your utility bill.” The page provides absolutely zero evidence, methodology, or explanation of where that figure came from.

The fact that the figure appears to be pulled from thin air didn’t stop the fossil-fuel-funded Heritage Foundations’ Nicholas Loris from using it in his post defending gas appliances. Loris was clearly inspired by the EiD post, using the same ConsumerAffairs page and gas industry reports to make most of the same flimsy arguments about the cost of gas versus electric appliances.

But price isn’t the only reason to embrace electrification. A new report out this morning analyzes all that pesky real-world evidence about the health threat posed by gas stoves that EiD and Loris would rather ignore, and finds that, sure enough, burning hydrocarbons in your home is dirtier and worse for your health than, well, not breathing in smoke and fumes!

The report, a collaborative effort from RMI, Sierra Club, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Mothers Out Front, states that nitrogen dioxide (NOx) concentrations are 50-400% higher in homes with gas stoves, which increases the risk of a child raised in that home of having asthma by an incredible 42%. It comes complete with real suggestions for how policymakers can address this indoor pollution.

On the other hand, Loris has two very limited suggestions for avoiding those dirty emissions. First is “using venting hoods” – fine if you have one, but comes as little comfort to apartment renters without that luxury. Also, the RMI et al. report notes that the scientific literature has found that while ventilation doesn’t hurt, it is by no means enough to make gas stoves safe.

And while Loris pretends to argue on behalf of those who struggle to pay their bills, his implicit suggestion is that people undertake costly renovations to install ventilation if they don’t want to expose their family to the indoor air pollution, as opposed to just using an electric stove.

His other brilliant suggestion is that “cooking on the back burner [will] significantly reduce exposure.”

Eureka! Of course! To avoid the dangerous, asthma-causing pollution inherent to gas stoves, just don’t cook on the front half.

What a compelling argument: Gas stoves are perfectly safe because when you use the inconvenient half of them you only breathe in “significantly reduce[d]” levels of dangerous fumes!

We’ve seen our fair share of shills cribbing from industry talking points, but Loris is really phoning it in here with this half-gassed effort.

(Crossposted with DailyKos.)

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