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Republicans have found their new dumb culture war

The Biden administration was never going to ban gas stoves. But that hasn't stopped the GOP from pretending otherwise.
Image: Close up of a burning gas stove.
Maciej Toporowicz / Getty Images

Given Republicans' fondness for spouting hot air, it was only a matter of time before they took the phrase literally.

On Monday, Bloomberg reported that the Consumer Product Safety Commission was considering new regulations around gas stoves, given growing concerns over indoor pollutants. "Any option is on the table," Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. said. "Products that can’t be made safe can be banned."

No one's coming to take your gas stove.

Now, Trumka never said a ban was forthcoming. And he (and Bloomberg) neglected to add that any CPSC regulations, like other proposed state and local-level bans of gas stoves, only apply to new construction. But that didn't keep Republicans from pouncing and evoking visions of a 2023 filled with government agents busting down doors and ripping ovens out of walls.

"Democrats are coming for your kitchen appliances," claimed Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. "Come and take it!" tweeted Sen. Ted Cruz. (Which would be difficult, frankly — the CPSC's jurisdiction doesn't extend to Cancun.) "Get your hands off our gas stoves!!!!” declared Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla. Even a few Democrats got in on the faux populism, with West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin declaring: "The federal government has no business telling American families how to cook their dinner."

The Biden administration quickly sought to turn down the flame. CPSC Chair Alexander Hohen-Saric stated Wednesday that the commission will not ban gas stoves. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre clarified later that day that "the president does not support banning gas stoves." But that hasn't stopped Republicans' pots from boiling over. "God. Guns. Gas stoves." tweeted Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, on Thursday (because when the Twitter account for the Jordan-led House Judiciary Committee Republicans proclaimed, "Kanye. Elon. Trump." last fall, that went super well).

The good news is that conservatives are only burning themselves.

At this point, I could repeat that no one's coming to take your gas stove. I could point out a few facts in favor of the poor, maligned electric stovetop. While gas stoves offer more precise temperature control than their electric counterparts, they waste more energy and pose a far bigger danger to the planet and public health — especially children's health — than we knew even 10 years ago. They leak methane, a potent greenhouse gas, even when not in use. A new study estimated that gas stoves are responsible for 1 in 8 cases of childhood asthma; another paper from 2013 found children in homes with gas stoves are 42% more likely to develop asthma. The industry recommends proper ventilation to reduce these risks, but in most households with gas ranges, the hood vent either circulates the pollutants right back into the kitchen or the hood doesn't exist at all. (And in many cases, reconfiguring houses to fix that would be even more invasive than replacing the stove.)

But, to twist a favorite right-wing phrase, this was never about facts; this was about feelings. Just over 30 years ago, the Clean Energy Act was easily renewed on bipartisan lines. Since then, the environment has become part of the culture wars. It’s telling that this split happened concurrently with the rise in conservative talk media, with its endless appetite for scare stories of government regulators out to get innocent, hardworking Americans.

Now, "gas stoves" can be added to a long list of items that conservatives have declared sacred Americana in the face of proposed, or merely rumored, regulation. Remember Donald Trump's rants about water pressure in showerheads and low-flow toilets? Remember howls from the right that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wanted to ban hamburgers? Remember GOP fury about more efficient lightbulbs?

The good news is that conservatives are only burning themselves. The cause of the gas stove is hardly populist, when gas is more common in cities, blue states and wealthier households. And more broadly, while decades of fearmongering have helped fill conservative airwaves, there's no evidence these fusses move any votes. Republicans can cook up whatever outrage du jour they want. Americans won't be eating it up.