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Consumer Safety Agency Says It’s Not Coming After Your Gas Stove — Yet.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) chair has a message for America: No, we are not coming for your gas stoves. At least, not yet.

A news report from Bloomberg quoting CPSC commissioner Richard Trumka saying a ban on gas stoves and ranges is “on the table” sparked an immediate backlash. Even President Joe Biden felt the need to disavow his appointee’s statement.

“The president does not support banning gas stoves — and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is independent, is not banning gas stoves,” a White House spokesperson said Wednesday.

At issue are a handful of studies claiming gas stoves are a health risk. For example, a report published in the “International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health” claims more than 12 percent of current childhood asthma cases in the U.S. can be attributed to gas stove use.

Trumka now says gas stovetops are “a hidden hazard” adding, “Products that can’t be made safe can be banned.”

Now the head of the CPSC is seeking to assure American consumers that their gas appliances are safe. “The CPSC has no proceeding to do so,” said Chairman Alexander Hoehn-Saric in a Wednesday statement. But he added, “CPSC is researching gas emissions in stoves and exploring new ways to address any health risks.” And the CPSC is asking for public comment “about gas stoves and potential solutions for reducing any associated risks.”

In other words, the issue is far from settled. But if the CSPC intends to move forward, it should be prepared for a bipartisan fight.

“This is a recipe for disaster. The federal government has no business telling American families how to cook their dinner,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.). “I can tell you the last thing that would never leave my house is the gas stove that we cook on.”

Supporters of consumer choice and free markets dismissed the science as thin -and the response as heavy-handed.

“This debate to me seems to be totally out of proportion from the benefits that Americans have because of fuels like natural gas for cooking and the health benefits from it —  especially in relation to other options out there,” said Katie Tubb, Research Fellow at the Center for Energy, Climate, and Environment at The Heritage Foundation. “A lot of people from Africa, China, and India would love access to natural gas as a cooking fuel because the alternatives there are quite poor.”

And the American Gas Association (AGA) called the claims in the International Journal report cited by CPSC “not substantiated by sound science.”

“Any discussion or perpetuation of the allegations in this report which is funded by non-governmental organizations to advance their agenda to remove consumer energy choice and the option of natural gas is reckless,” the AGA said. The industry group also accused the authors of the study in question of “ignoring literature, including one study of data collected from more than 500,000 children in 47 countries that ‘detected no evidence of an association between the use of gas as a cooking fuel and either asthma symptoms or asthma diagnosis.’

“Any allegation that gas stoves exceed standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization is patently false.”

Climate activists have been targeting natural gas use in homes and businesses for years, in part by banning natural gas hookups in new construction. New York City has already passed such a ban, and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul hopes to do the same statewide. In California, nearly 70 communities have imposed restrictions on natural gas. In response, some 20 states have passed “consumer choice” bills preventing local governments from banning natural gas.

Cooking with hydrocarbons like gas has been common in U.S. and European households since the late 19th century. There has never been a serious concern about air quality before. Why now?

Marc Morano of Climate Depot, a project of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), said fear is what often drives a lot of government or unelected bureaucratic board efforts to find ways to reduce the use of fossil fuels.

“When it comes to cooking anything, there’s all sorts of emissions, particulate matter in your home and it comes down to ventilation, but gas stoves have not been shown to be causing any kind of health crisis,” said Morano. “This is a political decision, knowing that climate is not going to scare people, so now they are going after ‘this is going to hurt your kids so we have to ban.’”

Marc Brown, vice president of state affairs at Consumer Energy Alliance said a gas stove ban is one of the last things that families in places such as New England need at a time of high energy prices and unstable electricity. Based on that, Brown said one would think Washington would focus on making it easier to secure reliable, affordable energy.

“Instead, D.C. bureaucrats want to declare a misguided war on your kitchen by embracing fear-mongering over families—all based on a ‘study’ that is all style and no substance,” Brown said.

And far from ending the debate, the CSPC released a statement on Wednesday that explicitly left the door open for future action.

“Agency staff plans to start gathering data and perspectives from the public on potential hazards associated with gas stoves, and proposed solutions to those hazards later this year,” the commission said. “Commission staff also continues to work with voluntary standards organizations to examine gas stove emissions and address potential hazards.”

If gas stoves are banned, would gas grills at backyard barbecues follow? And where would the electricity to power these new appliances come from? More than 60 percent of U.S. electricity production is from fossil fuels, with natural gas as the number one source — and growing.

“Natural gas utilities have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 69 percent since 1990, and they help homeowners reduce their carbon emissions 1.2 percent every year,” the AGA said. “Any efforts to ban highly efficient natural gas stoves should raise alarm bells for the 187 million Americans who depend on this essential fuel every day.”

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CICIO: FERC Nears One of the Costliest Energy Decisions in History

President Biden got it right in his 2022 State of the Union Address when he said “capitalism without competition is exploitation.” Competition is the keystone of the American economic model and its success. Unfortunately, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is considering a proposed rule on electricity transmission that not only fails to support the expansion of competition but also backs away from existing rules designed to usher in a new era of transmission competition to lower electricity costs for consumers.

According to a study by Princeton University, the United States will need to spend $2.1 trillion on transmission by 2050 if it is to reach net-zero emissions in that time. Competitively bid transmission projects have been shown to offer savings as great as 40 percent, which means requiring transmission projects to be competitively bid could save ratepayers $480 billion. Either way, consumer electric bills will substantially increase, but competition can reduce those cost increases and electricity price inflation.

The president, the Department of Justice, and the Federal Trade Commission are squarely supporting competition, as outlined in a joint comment submitted to FERC backing transmission competition. In a statement, the director of the FTC Office of Policy Planning, Elizabeth Wilkins, said, “Competition is still the best way to ensure that our electric grid is built out in a way that lowers rates, increases innovation, and improves sustainability and resiliency.” Despite this, FERC is proposing an anti-competition policy — putting it add odds with the rest of the executive branch.

The problem is that incumbent monopoly electric utilities are opposed to competition and cheered when the proposed rule to scale back competition was released. Electric utilities make money by tacking on a 10 percent to 12 percent return to their equity investments — and continue to receive returns on their transmission investments for up to 40 years. These monopolies fear competition, as evidenced by the voluminous comments they have filed to prevent transmission competition.

Under the Obama administration in 2011, FERC issued Order 1000, designed to usher in a new era of competition by eliminating a federal right of first refusal for incumbent utilities. However, in a giveaway to incumbent utility companies, state-level right of first refusal laws have limited the number of competitively bid projects to only 3 percent of all transmission projects nationwide.

From 2014 to 2021, the transmission portion of consumer electric bills has increased a staggering 79 percent while the energy and distribution cost components have remained relatively low. The explanation is simple: by blocking competition, incumbent utilities have been able to steadily increase consumer prices without the fear of losing business.

All Americans have been hit hard by record Consumer Price Index inflation, but more than half of that growth has come from energy price increases. Electricity price inflation came in at 15.5 percent on an annualized basis in the latest CPI report, outpacing the inflation rate.

While higher gasoline prices tend to get all the attention, in 2021, the typical American consumer spent  $179 per month on gasoline and $176.67 on heating, comprising electricity, natural gas and fuel oil and accounts for about 3 percent of household expenditures. A Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey reveals that 33 percent of 44 million renter households across the country were behind on their energy bills in the past year.

Electricity transmission competition is a proven anti-inflation policy that works every time. New Jersey offers an example of how transmission competition fits into the picture of fighting electricity price inflation and connecting renewable energy projects with the grid. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities recently concluded their largest competitively bid transmission project, with savings ranging from 50 percent to 66 percent — or between $2.3 billion and $4.6 billion.

Congress and the Biden administration have made fighting inflation a priority while also working to lower the price of energy. Both policies can be accomplished by embracing electricity transmission competition. FERC should stand up for consumers and lead the fight for transmission competition instead of blocking it.

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