by Greg Walcher, E&E Legal Senior Policy Fellow
As appearing in the Daily Sentinel
The national press corps sometimes jokes about a president so excited by a big event he insists, “We must tell the press at once!” and his staff responds, “Yes, sir — announcement or leak?”
Leaks are not always unplanned in Washington; often they are a strategy, floating a trial balloon to see the reaction. It is almost certainly what led to the current internet frenzy about federal plans to ban gas stoves. Social media is awash in posts by Democratic officials panicked about a new report saying gas stoves cause childhood asthma. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, V.P. Kamala Harris, and even first lady Jill Biden, are all being mocked for sounding the alarm, because they all have gas stoves themselves. They’re not alone — 40 million American homes, and 90% of professional chefs, choose gas stoves because they cook better than electric ones. A classic expression, when one starts performing better, is “now you’re cooking with gas!”
A December report from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health claims gas stoves are responsible for 12.7% of childhood asthma cases. It has already been debunked by numerous scientists, because it is not a scientific study in any sense, but a convoluted math equation combining dissimilar statistics from older literature. The authors estimated, based on other papers, that there is a 34% increase in the risk of asthma with exposure to gas stoves. Then they estimate the share of households with gas stoves, and wind up with the 12.7% conclusion about childhood asthma — taking into consideration no other potential causes.
As my colleague Steve Milloy points out, asthma is mainly triggered by allergic reactions and there are no allergens in natural gas, so the alarm is absurd on its face. The cause of childhood asthma (I had it as a child myself) remains unknown. Nevertheless, citing this new paper, a Biden-appointed Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) member named Richard Trumka proposed a ban on new natural gas stoves, to combat childhood asthma. Calling gas stoves a “hidden hazard,” he told Bloomberg news, “Products that can’t be made safe can be banned.” There is little chance he made such a pronouncement without checking with anyone — this was a strategic leak.