A report that linked gas stoves to potential health problems in children ignited talk of a national ban on the appliance. The House recently passed a measure to prevent any such ban. While that action is unlikely to survive in the Senate, some states are already moving forward on their own. Lisa Fletcher sorts through the debate.
The following is a transcript of a report from "Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson." Watch the video by clicking the link at the end of the page.
More than 40 million Americans cook with gas stoves.
That little blue flame — now the source of a national debate over whether it possesses a serious health hazard and should be regulated or banned.
PBS NewsHour: “There’s been quite a bit of heated debate lately about gas stoves and potential government regulation.”
WBZ CBS Boston: “Those stoves might contribute to childhood asthma.”
Fox Business: “Now they’re coming for our stoves. You’ve got to be kidding me."
Richard Trumka Jr., a member of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, lit a match under the issue late last year during an interview with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
Richard Trumka Jr.: “...unfortunately the vast majority of Americans have no idea that every time they cook, they could be subjecting themselves and their loved ones to toxic chemicals I think we need to be talking about regulating gas stoves, whether that's drastically improving emissions or banning gas stoves entirely.”
Feeding the fire are studies supporting the toxicity of methane gas emitted from gas-burning appliances, including one from Stanford University estimating gas stove emissions could produce as much pollution as a half-a-million gas-powered cars over a 20-year period.
Though the notion of an all-out ban was later walked back by the head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the White House...
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre: “...the President does not support banning gas stoves.”
...critics say the issue isn’t about public safety. It’s about politics.
Lisa Fletcher: Are gas stoves under attack?
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wa): I think it's fair to say gas stoves are under attack by the current administration and some radical climate groups.
Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers is Chair of the House Energy and Commerce committee.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wa): I come from Washington State where our governor is one of those that has been calling for bans on gas stoves, but it seems to be a part of this larger effort that some call the energy transition, but it really is the federal government controlling — the federal government saying that we know best.
And it’s heated up political debate around the country. Local governments in at least nine states have passed laws that may restrict the use of natural gas by advancing standards to electrify home heating and cooking. Meanwhile, 20 state governments have passed so-called “fuel choice” laws that prohibit banning gas hookups in new construction.
Liz Suhay: But the problem is that the left and the right dragged science into this inappropriately, I think, right?
Liz Suhay is an associate professor of government and public affairs at American University in Washington, D.C. She studies the intersection of politics, science, and public attitudes.
Lisa Fletcher: Is science even part of the real dialogue right now over the gas stove debate?
Liz Suhay: The debate, at root, is not a scientific debate. The debate, at root, is about clashing interests and clashing values. So, with respect to the gas stove debate, we have environmentalists on the one hand, and we have oil and gas companies on the other, and I think they are driving a lot of this.
And it isn’t just gas stoves. Suhay says in the last 10 years, she’s seen controversial issues increasingly politicized, using science. From the benefits and harms of decriminalizing marijuana, to gun control and the safety of vaccines, Suhay says political interests have become adept at cherry-picking the data that suits them.
Lisa Fletcher: People tend to quote science and they say, "Well, science says, so it must be true, and we must follow it." But historically, that's not correct, right? I mean, the Earth isn't flat. The world isn't the center of the universe. DDT isn't safe.
Liz Suhay: Science is a process. It's not a set of facts. What we understand to be true evolves. And I think we need to be honest with each other about this.
And that brings us back to the facts, or the new reality, that what is called "science" can no longer be wholly trusted.
Liz Suhay: I actually don't see this as the scientists themselves being biased, but I see political actors as being biased and using science to try to advance their own policy preferences.
Lisa Fletcher: So, science becomes a way of justifying your political viewpoint?
Liz Suhay: That's exactly what people are doing. They inadvertently undermine Americans' trust in scientists. And I think that that's really unfortunate.
Sharyl (on-camera): I think we find ourselves asking this all the time now: so how do you know which studies are being used to advance an agenda and which ones we ought to look at?
Lisa: Well Suhay says most science is done in earnest by honest scientists. But whenever you see somebody holding around one study and calling it the absolute truth, without nuance, that's when you really need to take a closer look.
Sharyl: Alright. Thanks, Lisa.
Watch story here.
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