Sen. Joe Manchin III kicked off his first hearing as chairman of the Senate Energy Committee in the new Congress on Thursday by placing the natural gas stove debate on the front burner.
The West Virginia Democrat and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas filed legislation to safeguard the household cooking appliance, as Mr. Manchin slammed the Biden administration amid concerns that it could restrict or ban new purchases over health and environmental factors.
“I’ve always been a proponent of energy efficiency, but the draft rule proposes efficiency levels that [the Energy Department] says at the highest level — 96% of gas stoves — don’t currently meet. I don’t like where I think they’re going with this,” Mr. Manchin said. “I can tell you one thing: They’re not taking my gas stove out. My wife and I would both be upset.”
He said: “In light of the broader concerns about the administration looking to find ways to push out natural gas … [this] doesn’t make any sense at all. The federal government doesn’t have any business telling American families how to cook their dinner.”
An independent federal regulatory agency walked back suggestions last month that it may seek a ban. But the debate was reignited this week when the Department of Energy proposed new efficiency standards for electric and gas stoves.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican eyeing a White House bid in 2024, jumped into the debate this week by proposing to ban the state sales tax on gas stoves.
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Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the Energy Committee’s ranking Republican, called on Energy Department Deputy Secretary David Turk, who testified about the implementation of the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law, to pledge that funds from the law would not be used to ban or restrict the use of natural gas in new buildings, as an increasing number of cities and states do so.
“I would say what has reached a boiling point is anger against the Biden administration’s insanity of proposing to ban gas stoves,” Mr. Barrasso said. “It’s astonishing.”
Mr. Turk offered assurances that no one will be coming for consumers’ natural gas stoves, either now or in the future.
“Let me be very clear, and the White House has been very clear on this,” he said. “The president does not support banning gas stoves. The Department of Energy does not support banning gas stoves. We do efficiency regulations for all sorts of household appliances.”
Consumer Product Safety Commission Chair Alexander Hoehn-Saric last month quickly walked back a threat from fellow agency member Richard Trumka Jr. that they were weighing a ban on the sales of new gas stoves over health concerns from the methane-emitting appliance.
Democratic-led cities and states are increasingly implementing bans and forcing a switch to electric stoves in the name of climate change, promoting fears that the federal government may follow suit.
Mr. Manchin said that he and Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma will be requesting information from the safety commission about its “sudden desire” to fixate on gas stoves.
The Department of Energy’s proposed efficiency standards would seek to scale back energy consumption on new electric and gas stoves. The rules would take effect in 2027. While the standards would not impose an explicit ban, it has still reignited fears among critics that stringent rules could have the effect of a ban.
“As required by Congress, the Department of Energy is proposing efficiency standards for gas and electric cooktops — we are not proposing bans on either,” a department spokesperson told NBC News in a statement. “The proposed standards would not go into effect until 2027 and cumulatively save the nation up to $1.7 billion. Every major manufacturer has products that meet or exceed the requirements proposed today.”