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By Kevin Killough, State Energy Reporter
A casual remark by U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. about banning gas stoves published in a Bloomberg article set off a nationwide clamor.
Immediately after the article was published, the commissioner tweeted, “To be clear, CPSC isn’t coming for anyone’s gas stove.”
But many question how sincere Trumka’s walk back was.
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, obtained a memo written by Trumka in October arguing that gas stoves are a serious risk to respiratory health and detailing a policy roadmap for a federal ban on them.
Gun Control Playbook
The furor over the proposed ban of gas stoves was said to be a panic fueled by paranoid conservatives who were just making gas stoves part of a culture war.
Gun control advocates often assure Second Amendment rights advocates that their concerns are overblown and no one is coming for their guns. Then, state and local lawmakers pass laws restricting gun ownership.
Dozens of communities in California have restrictions on natural gas in new construction as well as New York State and, most recently, Eugene, Oregon. Many others are considering similar policies.
Wyoming communities appear safe from the war on gas stoves. The Idaho Legislature introduced a bill this week to prohibit local bans on natural gas appliances, which is modeled after a Wyoming law passed in 2021.
However, it’s unlikely the feds are done trying to ban gas stoves. If they’re successful, Wyomingites will have to give them up.
The push to ban gas stoves began well before the Bloomberg interview, and energy expert Robert Bryce uncovered a well-funded campaign to eliminate the use of natural gas in people’s homes.
In late 2021, Bryce came across an Axios article about a new group called Climate Imperative. The San Francisco-based organization reportedly had a planned budget of $180 million annually for five years. GuideStar, a database of nonprofits, shows the group took in $221 million in its first full year of operation.
For such a young organization to have such a large budget, and virtually no coverage in the mainstream media, sparked Bryce’s curiosity.
“As far as I know, this is unprecedented in terms of the climate movement to have this much money come out of one organization or come through one organization,” Bryce told Cowboy State Daily.
On his substack in an article headlined “The Billionaires Behind The Gas Bans,” Bryce documents Climate Imperative’s and other anti-gas organizations’ large budgets.
According to Guidestar data, the Sierra Club collected $180 million in its latest reporting years, and the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) collected $130 million in the same period.
The money from those two organizations and Climate Imperative, along with the budgets for the Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense Fund, which are all pushing for the elimination of hydrocarbons – often called fossil fuels – comes to nearly $1.5 billion annually.
The major groups promoting nuclear and hydrocarbon energy – the American Petroleum Institute, Nuclear Energy Institute, American Gas Association, Western Petroleum Association and the Society of Petroleum Engineers – have annual combined budgets a third as much.
Despite Climate Imperative’s large budget, Bryce said there’s been very little reporting on the organization.
“There’s no doubt that Climate Imperative has been very consciously trying to keep a low profile,” Bryce said.
Cowboy State Daily reached out to Climate Imperative but didn’t receive a response by the time this article was published.
On its website, Climate Imperative promotes the electrification of everything as a means to fight the “climate crisis.”
About the same time the group was founded, the Sierra Club claimed that gas stoves were “linked to respiratory illnesses,” based on research from RMI.
Another RMI study was published recently concluding that more than 12% of asthma cases in the U.S. are associated with gas stove use in the home.
Both RMI studies have received widespread criticism for their methodological approach and the fact they ignored prominent international research published in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine, which studied 500,000 school children in 47 countries over a multi-year period and found no link to the use of gas as a cooking fuel and asthma.
According to a 2020 RMI press release, Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos gave the organization $10 million. The money was be used to “reduce GHG emissions from homes, commercial structures and other buildings.”
Bezos’ financial support also goes to the National Resource Defense Council.
Climate Imperative’s board includes Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple CEO Steve Jobs.
The Sierra Club’s Beyond Carbon Project receives $500 million from Micheal Bloomberg’s Philanthropies, which Grist reported in 2019 was the largest philanthropic donation to combat climate change.
The Sierra Club has been involved in a number of successful campaigns over the years to eliminate natural gas in the home. An article on its website keeps track of more than 60 California communities that have banned natural gas in new building construction.
According to the Department of Energy, on a per-Btu basis, electricity costs 3.5 times more than natural gas. As more homes lack natural gas, the average American will see much higher utility bills.
“That means that efforts to ban natural gas are, in practice, an energy tax on the poor and the middle class,” Bryce wrote in his article.
The wealthy often use their money to fund causes they believe in, and philanthropy does a lot of good in the world. But Bryce said it’s hypocritical for them to push for policies that will result in higher costs to consumers, in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint, while enjoying very large carbon footprints themselves with large homes, yachts, and private jets.
Especially for something that will accomplish so little in terms of addressing climate change.
According to a 2015 study by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, gas stoves account for 0.4% of natural gas use.
The proposed federal ban on gas stoves didn’t do well. Even President Joe Biden said it was something he didn’t support.
After Trumka walked back his comments in a tweet, Consumer Product Safety Commissioner Chair Alexander Hoehn-Saric issued a statement assuring the country their gas stoves are safe.
Bryce said the federal government realized it wasn’t a good look for them. As the state and local bans show, it’s popular with municipalities and legislatures. That’s why these environmental nonprofits are continuing the war on stoves.
“They see this as a political battle they can win,” Bryce said.
Wyoming may be safe from local bans, but we’re beholden to federal law. Bryce thinks the feds will pick up the torch again when things cool off. In the meantime, environmental groups will fight the gas-stove battles on the state and local level – and win.
“From a political strategy, I think it’s clear that they’ve had success at it. Congratulations to them as policy makers, but this is terrible, terrible for the consumer. Terrible for the poor and the middle class. It is a regressive tax. And I’m opposed to regressive taxation, particularly when it comes to energy,” Bryce said.
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