Gas stoves impact climate change and public health, study shows

Gas stoves impact climate change and public health, study shows

For nitrogen oxides, or NOx, which pose an especially harmful risk to children and the elderly, Lebel said they found the emissions are directly proportional to how much gas is burned. “If someone says they don’t use their stove, and so they’re not actually emitting any methane, well, that’s actually not true because most of the stoves that we measured had at least a slow bleed of methane while they were off,” said Lebel, who conducted the research as a graduate student at Stanford University and is now a senior scientist at PSE Healthy Energy. “So if you turn another burner on, use a bigger burner, or turn it higher, all these things will create more NOx,” Lebel said. The concentration of those gases is “dependent on how big your kitchen is, what your ventilation is in your kitchen, all those things matter.”

Gas stoves and ovens leak significant amounts of planet-warming methane whether they are on or off. The study estimates stoves release 0.8% to 1.3% of their natural gas into the atmosphere as unburned methane. The study also found that in homes without range hoods, or with poor ventilation, the concentration of harmful nitrogen oxides — a byproduct of burning natural gas — can reach or surpass a healthy limit within minutes, especially in homes with small kitchens.

That may not sound like much, but lead study author Eric Lebel told CNN it’s a “really big number” when added to the amount of methane that is released during the production and transmission of the gas itself. Methane, the main component of natural gas, is a potent planet-warmer. It is around 80 times more powerful in the short term than carbon dioxide, scientists say.

“This new study is a really great example of how widespread the sources of greenhouse gas pollution are,” Charles Koven, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who is not involved with the study, told CNN. “Getting to net zero isn’t a matter of replacing just the cars or just the power plants that burn fossil fuels with alternatives that don’t,” he added. “We need to look at everything that uses fossil fuels, even the sources as seemingly small as leaky gas pipes that power the stoves in our kitchens, and realize that all of these tiny sources can add up to big climate impacts.” The study also suggests that the federal government is underestimating the amount of methane emissions leaking from homes, which the researchers found was 15% higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s estimate for all residential emissions in 2019.

According to the latest data from the US Energy Information Administration, there were more than 40 million gas stoves in US households in 2015, though the proportion of gas stoves in some regions is higher than others. The study comes as a growing number of US cities, including certain places in California, New York and Massachusetts, are shifting away from including natural gas hookups in new homes. Green energy advocates argue that switching from gas to electric appliances will ease the transition to renewable energy. Electric appliances, according to this study, avoid the harmful byproducts of burning natural gas.

The News Highlights

  • Gas stoves impact climate change and public health, study shows
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