GOP turns up heat in debate on gas stoves

York Dispatch editorial board

Anyone wondering why it seems impossible to have an intelligent conversation in the public sphere need look no further than the recent political eruption over a seemingly benign appliance: the gas stove.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has been considering revised safety guidelines for the cooking devices. This should come as no surprise.

It has long been known that stoves’ open gas flames emit carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, which present health concerns and contribute to climate change. The dangers were underscored by a December study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, which estimated gas stoves contribute to increased frequency of childhood asthma.

MORE:Why folks are fired up about gas stoves

MORE:Health risks to children could prompt ban on gas stoves

New regulations on gas stoves may happen after studies show that gas stoves lead to health problems. (Patricioj/Dreamstime/TNS)

That’s why scores of cities and nearly 20 states have already moved to restrict the use of gas stoves in future construction. Neighboring New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has proposed phasing out all gas-fueled devices, including furnaces, in new buildings beginning in 2030.

But a comment by Consumer Product Safety Commissioner Richard Trumka in an interview with Bloomberg News this month reignited the controversy.

“Any option is on the table” said the commissioner, who characterized the health and respiratory problems caused by the stoves as a hidden hazard. “Products that can’t be made safe can be banned.”

Cue the culture warriors!

Humka’s suggestion was quickly re-framed. In the retelling from the right, the federal government is preparing to muscle its way into Ma and Pa Patriot’s kitchen like the Kool-Aid Man and make off with their beloved culinary centerpiece.

“Joe Biden came after your guns,” tweeted Rep. Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin, one of the army of congressional Republicans who confuses trash-posting on social media with public service. “He came for your free speech. Now he’s coming for your gas stove.”

Hoo boy!

“A government that thinks it can control what stove you use is a government with too much power,” Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn posted on Twitter.

Lawmakers who oppose abortion rights wringing their hands over government overreach is beyond ironic, but let’s set that aside for now.

All of this GOP silliness — and there’s plenty more of it out there — derails any meaningful dialogue on a legitimate environmental and public health issue.

We’ve seen this before. Just look at how the party responded to mountains of evidence regarding climate change: It was more fun to throw snowballs around the Senate and make fun of Al Gore than to engage, or even acknowledge, the issue. The costs for this stubborn intransigence mount in dollars, productivity and lives every day.

Here’s what would happen among responsible lawmakers: A potential health threat would be investigated, intelligently debated and addressed. Unfortunately, too many Republican lawmakers don’t do intelligent debate, are only interested in partisan investigations and believe health threats, like all problems, are to be exploited rather than addressed.

The abandonment of even a pretext to governing is obscene. It would be punished by voters in a democracy whose electorate wasn’t carefully divvied up to protect incumbents and easily roused to cheer cheap political potshots over serious problem-solving.

So, lawmakers on one side of the aisle will respond to the issue, charting common-sense steps to diminish the inclusion of gas stoves in future construction or, in especially progressive municipalities like Ithaca, N.Y., taking steps to entirely decarbonize their community.

Republicans, many of them, will respond with exaggerations about government bans or, in less progressive locales, suggestions to remove the sales taxes on gas stoves to encourage their purchase.

When it comes to alleviating or even accepting the health risks associated with gas stoves, the Republican response by and large, as usual, is little more than a lot of hot air.