- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Get ready to wait longer for your spaghetti dinner.

The Department of Energy is proposing stringent new energy efficiency standards for gas stoves that could double the time it takes to boil water, manufacturers say.

The proposed changes, aimed at improving energy efficiency in American kitchens, have attracted hundreds of comments in opposition. Meanwhile, gas stove manufacturers say it will be impossible to achieve the changes without reducing the sizes of burners and changing their designs, which would result in longer waits to put dinner on the table.

Most of the comments pouring into the Energy Department are part of a mass-mailing campaign.

“This is big-government overreach at its worst,” Vernon Williams wrote, using a mass-mail template. “This rule would require manufacturers to meet new, arbitrary and stringent energy consumption standards that will cost millions of dollars in upfront costs. These costs would be passed on to the American consumer — the same consumers who already struggle to afford rising food prices under President Biden.”

The Energy Department opened public comments for the proposed changes just weeks after the Biden administration had to backpedal on a Consumer Product Safety Commission threat to ban gas stoves because of claims about environmental and health threats.

The latest proposal could go even further to hamper gas cooking, which is used in 40% of American households.

“This is actually a much more urgent, imminent threat to gas cooking products than what the Consumer Product Safety commissioner threatened,” Jill Notini, a spokeswoman for the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, told The Washington Times.

The proposed rule would, for the first time, impose limits on how much energy gas stoves can use.

Under the standard proposed by the Energy Department, manufacturers would have to slash average energy use for residential gas stoves by 32% beginning in 2027.

According to the proposal, the new standards “are projected to yield significant environmental benefits” and save consumers money on their energy bills.

Energy Department officials said they have tentatively found that the changes are “economically justified and would result in a significant conservation of energy.”

The proposed standards also would apply to electric cooktops but are less stringent. According to the department, 80% of current electric stovetops already meet the standard, compared with 4% of gas stoves on the market today that would meet the new standard for gas appliances. 

Critics say the proposal would do little for the environment and is aimed at handicapping gas stoves to hasten their elimination.

“They have set the most stringent, proposed standards for gas products that only a sliver of the market can meet,” Ms. Notini said.

A Department of Energy spokesman denied the manufacturers’ criticism and told The Times that the proposed rule would not require reduced burner size or require longer times to boil water or cook food.

“Gas cooktops would continue to have the full range of available burner sizes under the proposed standards, including high input-rate burners, to maintain the same boiling time on all cookware, since consumers boil different amounts of water in different-sized pots,” the Energy Department spokesman told The Times.

The Appliance Standards Awareness Project, which works to improve energy efficiency in American appliances, accused the manufacturers association of exaggerating the impact on gas stoves.

The project’s executive director, Andrew deLaski, said the Energy Department found many lower-priced gas stoves that would already meet the proposed standards.

Among high-end gas stove models, Mr. deLaski said, the project found that “they’ll just need to be designed as well in their burner setup as the best such model in the group the agency tested.”

Manufacturers say they can’t achieve the new standards without making changes to the stoves. Options include reducing burner size and substituting flat, cast-iron burners now found on high-end models for European-style cooking grates.

Some manufacturers report that they would have to eliminate the large, high-output burners that are included on most gas stove cooktops and are used for high-heat cooking and boiling water quickly.

The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers is conducting testing to see what changes manufacturers would have to make to achieve the efficiency standards proposed by the Energy Department.

“We are thinking it’s going to take 10 minutes longer to boil a pot of water,” Ms. Notini said. “It’s not unreasonable to think that’s the kind of thing that will need to happen because your burners are going to need to be a lot smaller and they are eliminating some of the high-input burners consumers love.”

Even though the Energy Department cannot dictate stove design, Ms. Notini said, “They can prescribe levels, and they allow the manufacturers to get there through their testing.”

One way to achieve the new standard, manufacturers are finding, would be the elimination of the high-input burners.

The Energy Department is taking action on stoves as it restarts appliance regulations aimed at energy efficiency that were halted during the Trump administration.

The department is also working in concert with Mr. Biden’s goal of eliminating the use of fossil fuels for generating energy by 2035.

Rachael Wilfong, an energy and climate researcher for the conservative Heritage Foundation, said the department’s proposed gas stove efficiency standards would cut energy use by only about 3% over the average 14-year life of the appliance.

Savings also would be paltry, according to manufacturers, amounting to about $1.50 per year on energy costs.

The real purpose of the proposed energy efficiency standards for gas stoves, Ms. Wilfong said, “is to get to the [Biden] administration’s goal of eliminating fossil fuels.”

Earlier this year, Consumer Product Safety Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. called gas stoves “a hidden hazard” that “can be banned” by the commission. He cited a study produced by the green energy group Rocky Mountain Institute that claimed gas stoves caused 12% of childhood asthma. Some of the data came from criticized studies, including one that tested stove emissions in a room lined with plastic wrap to eliminate ventilation. Several studies have shown no link between gas stoves and asthma.

Mr. Trumka’s threat drew instant backlash, and the Biden administration quickly denied that it was weighing a gas stove ban. Still, the Energy Department’s proposed efficiency standards may achieve the same goal.

“They’ll come out and say it’s not an outright ban on natural gas or natural gas stoves, but it’s making it a lot harder for manufacturers of those products to comply,” Ms. Wilfong said. “It will make it more expensive for consumers to buy those products. And what we feel is the most harmful is it just completely ignores consumer choice.”

The Energy Department will end the comment period on the new energy efficiency standards in April. After that, it will continue to weigh the proposal while factoring in public responses.

An anonymous commenter wrote to the Department of Energy this month to argue that gas stoves produce far less pollution than other fossil fuels and, unlike electric models, work during power outages.

“Just quit tinkering and leave the people be,” the commenter wrote. “The government should not be involved in every aspect of our day-to-day lives.”

• Susan Ferrechio can be reached at sferrechio@washingtontimes.com.

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