Cities are trying to limit gas hookups in new buildings — chefs are 'horrified'

A gas ring burns on a stove.
As the grid gets greener, some cities are trying to get you to break up with your methane-emitting gas stove.
Jeff J Mitchell | Getty Images

Burning natural gas emits about half the carbon of coal, but producing and burning natural gas is still a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. That's why some cities, including Berkeley, Los Angeles and New York City, are trying to limit or outright ban gas hookups for new buildings.

In their climate action plans, Minneapolis and St. Paul say they also want to transition away from natural gas appliances.

But what would that mean for those who love to cook over a natural gas flame?

“Chefs are horrified at the idea of giving up their gas stoves,” said Tom Philpott, the food and agriculture correspondent for Mother Jones. He recently wrote about the topic.

“I talked to a chef in Chicago. He said that he would exit the business if he had to give up his gas stove,” Philpott said. “I think that there is this clinging to the idea of seeing the flame come up and calibrating how hot you're cooking medium is by looking at the flame.”

Gas stoves only account for about 3 percent of a household’s natural gas use; the rest comes from furnaces and water heaters. But Philpott said moving away from gas hookups in buildings is going to take changing people’s minds about cooking with electricity.

“I don't think people really care where their heat comes from. Electric heat is fine as long as it's keeping you warm,” he said. “But the thing that people will demand is keeping their gas stoves, and we've got to figure out a way to make people not do that because, in order to address climate change, we basically have to stop essentially all gas use.”

Natural gas emits methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas. While electric or induction stoves could draw on carbon-emitting power, Philpott said the power grid is getting greener every day.

“When you turn on your gas stove, you are cooking with a 100 percent fossil fuels,” he said. “When you turn the switch on an induction range or a regular electric range, you're getting power from the power grid. And the power grid right now in the United States is about 62 percent fossil fuels and the other 38 percent is carbon free. So already you're 62 percent better off.”

For his reporting, Philpott tried out induction cooking. To hear how it compares to cooking with natural gas, hit play on the audio player above.

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