Across the country, the natural gas industry is playing a pivotal role in achieving our clean energy goals today, and is committed to making further progress. The industry is investing $95 million every day on energy efficiency and upgrades to infrastructure that will continue to unlock innovative solutions to meet our environmental goals. These investments have been key to the progress we have achieved thus far, with carbon dioxide emissions hitting 30-year lows. Without question, natural gas, natural gas utilities and our delivery infrastructure are essential to meeting our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals. But as we continue this work towards this cleaner energy future with our customers and communities, some are focused on promoting misleading information that distracts from the greater task at hand: protecting our environment while continuing to deliver affordable and reliable energy to the millions of Americans who need it every day.
In recent months, we have seen biased media coverage based on limited research assert that natural gas stoves are both bad for the health and detrimental to the environment. Reports that draw conclusions from their own bias rather than from the scientific community to lure readers in are dangerously misleading and irresponsible. An example of this is a Stanford University study written with an organization called Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers (PSE) for Healthy Energy that recently made headlines, claiming that natural gas stoves in kitchens are an outsized contributor to climate change and poor public health. While the headlines are alarming, a look at key details from the study tell a very different story.
Concerns with this study include sample size, quality of the testing environment and the elimination of ventilation. First, researchers only studied 53 stoves in California homes. Roughly half of the emissions measured in this small sample came from only five of the 53 stoves, which they then used as a model to predict emissions from the 40 million U.S. residences with natural gas stoves, even though the study included discontinued stove models with inefficient pilot lights that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) prohibited the sale of in 2009. Second, researchers wrapped kitchens in plastic sheeting, using sandbags and painter’s tape to seal off any form of ventilation, steps that don’t accurately simulate a realistic environment that uses range exhaust hoods that would normally be used while cooking, and is not representative of actual exposure conditions for measuring indoor air quality or respiratory matters. And finally, the study did not include any emissions from the cooking process itself. Cooking that includes forms of high-temperature cooking is the chief source of concern for indoor air quality for various pollutants such as particulate matter and volatile organic compounds. Ventilation is key for this very reason.
There are no documented risks to respiratory health from natural gas stoves from the regulatory and advisory agencies and organizations responsible for protecting residential consumer health and safety. The Federal Interagency Committee on Indoor Air Quality, which is comprised of two dozen federal agencies led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), routinely addresses indoor air quality issues of public importance and they have not identified natural gas cooking emissions as an issue concerning asthma or respiratory illness. Furthermore, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and EPA do not present gas ranges as a significant contributor to adverse air quality or health hazard in their technical or public information literature, guidance, or requirements. And a statistically sound study has confirmed that same point. “Cooking Fuels and Prevalence of Asthma: A Global Analysis of Phase Three of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC),” which analyzed 512,707 primary and secondary school children from 108 centers in 47 countries, concluded that there is “no evidence of an association between the use of gas as a cooking fuel and either asthma symptoms or asthma diagnosis.”
While some reports may vilify natural gas, residential natural gas accounts for only four percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and natural gas distribution system emissions have declined 69 percent since 1990. Furthermore, residential natural gas use for cooking produces less than 0.2 percent of total annual greenhouse gas emissions – far from being number one on the target list for meaningful paths to emissions reduction. The industry is committed to advancing the environmental benefits of natural gas even further by investing in modernizing our systems a helping customers shrink their own carbon footprints through energy efficiency improvements.
There is no question that climate change is the defining challenge of our time, but we cannot fall victim to inflammatory headlines and misleading research that prey on emotion over fact. Americans love natural gas and the affordable, reliable and clean benefits it delivers for families and businesses. A commitment to safety is at the core of what the industry does, and we will continue to innovate and advance efforts to help ensure the safe delivery of cleaner and more affordable energy to the Americans who rely on it every day.
To work towards a clean energy future in earnest, we must all come to the table and focus on providing solutions, driving innovation, promoting statically sound research and basing public policy decisions on science. The natural gas industry is driving solutions today and we have
The Editors at RealClearEnergy.