The American Right to Die in a Gas Stove Explosion

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I know I have to talk about gas stoves. I do not want to talk about gas stoves, but I have to, because it’s misinformation and far right politicization of science but my god it’s just so obvious and stupid that it makes me insanely, irrationally angry. But fine. Here we go.

Last month, a commissioner with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission did an interview with Bloomberg in which he pointed out the obvious fact that household appliances that burn natural gas, like gas stoves and ovens, release harmful emissions into the home and into the environment, and so the federal government is considering banning the sale of new appliances.

For many years now scientists have known without a shadow of a doubt that gas appliances release significant levels of nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter into our indoor environments, raising those levels to the point that they would be considered harmful even if you were outside. A study published this past December found that indoor gas stoves alone account for 13% of all cases of childhood asthma in the United States. Now, I do not have human children but if I did I would be concerned about whether or not an item I had to use every day was going to, you know, maybe kill them in gym class, and I would be relieved to know that not only is there a safe option (electric) but also Congress just passed a bill that will give me up to $840 to buy that replacement.

But I guess I must be a little weird, because a whole lot of other people heard all this and decided to make this whole gas stove thing their own personal Waterloo, but with, like, Alex Jones as their Napoleon.

The Republican Party has, in recent years, rebranded itself as the party of eating lead paint chips and injecting horse dewormer to own the libs, so they immediately realized they had to get on top of this gas stove ban by being very much against it. To do that, they had to create what we call a “strawman,” aka a fake argument that is much easier to beat than the real argument your opponent is making. In this case, they decided to argue against Joe Biden literally breaking down your front door, shooting your dog, and dragging your gas stove out of your home and straight to the dump.

Anyone with two brain cells to rub together knows this will never happen. I mean, just consider lead paint: Ben Franklin was warning people about the dangers of lead paint in 1786, and over time everyone finally realized that it led to organ failure and brain damage. But the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission – the same guys I mentioned earlier who are talking about banning gas stoves now – took until 1977 to finally ban lead in paint and toys and furniture.

I guess that means that now, more than 45 years later, there are no homes with lead paint on the walls, right? No! You idiot! Do you think they passed that ban and then Jimmy Carter went around kicking down doors and scraping paint off the walls? No! They stopped companies from selling NEW paint with lead in it. And as any renters in major cities who have children know, there are lots and lots and lots of units still being rented that contain toxic levels of lead in the walls, because safely getting rid of lead paint is expensive and most landlords are sociopathic leeches sucking the lifeblood out of society.

And so it is with gas stoves: homeowners will be able to keep their existing gas stoves if they’d like, or replace them if they are able to, even taking advantage of that Inflation Reduction Act rebate if they’d like. Landlords will replace their stoves if they find it economically feasible, depending upon whether their potential renters can and want to pay a premium to enjoy carbon monoxide-free indoor air quality. Landlords renting to lower income people will keep their unventilated gas stoves in place until they explode or break down beyond the point of repair, at which point they will drag their feet on finding a replacement until their tenant verifies that they understand their rights and have the ability to fight for them or simply moves out.

So banning new gas stoves won’t really negatively affect anyone: middle and upper income people will have options, and things will probably continue to be the same ol’ same ol’ for low-income folks.

But as with every attempt to protect humans from themselves, there are the conservative naysayers.

And so, Senator Joe Manchin is preemptively launching a ban on gas appliance bans, which I’m sure has nothing to do with the fact that he is the representative who is the number one top recipient of money from the oil and gas industry, having pocketed $757,059 last year alone. That’s more than most people get for doing real jobs 40 hours a week. Ted Cruz, the coauthor of the “Gas Stove Protection and Freedom Act,” only got $138,000, which is so sad for him. But yeah I’m sure it’s just a huge coincidence, just like people in the comments of my video last week thought it was a huge coincidence that influencers happened to talk about how much they love propane after getting a sack of money from the propane industry.

It’s probably nothing that the industry that spent millions popularizing the phrase “now you’re cooking with gas” is now spending millions of dollars on politicians who are trying to convince the general public that actually their stovetop is central to their identity as Americans, that it’s their god-given freedom to give themselves brain damage while overcooking their steak, that it would be downright communist or gosh even socialist to raise a child who can play kickball without experiencing severe respiratory distress.

Now, it wouldn’t be one of my videos if I didn’t reserve some time to also mock the other side. I am nothing if not a measured, enlightened centrist. So, here it is: the Biden administration has rushed to clarify that they have no plans to ban gas stoves at all. I’m not even kidding here when I say that is a stupid reaction. Stop playing their game! Say the correct thing: “Yeah, we probably will ban new gas stoves at some point because they serve no purpose besides paying the CEOs of ExxonMobil and their colleagues.”

(Parenthetical aside in the interest of true enlightened centrism: we probably should carve out some exceptions for Chinese cooks in professional kitchens, at least until we come up with a better way to superheat those gorgeous woks, but I assure you that the average home chef will not suffer from the switch to electric.)

But yeah, I just wish (as usual) the Democrats would suck it up and take the reasonable stand: there’s nothing wrong with phasing out products that actively hurt us when there are safe and affordable alternatives.

I’ll end by pointing out that if you have a gas range or oven or furnace, don’t panic. I know, that’s always my boring advice but it works for so many situations. If you have a hood that vents to the outside, use it when you use your oven! If you don’t, crack the windows and turn on a fan. If you own your home, consider replacing your oven and look into the IRA rebate to help you out. If you can’t do any of that and you don’t have kids, hey, it’s not great for your health but it’s also not the end of the world and there are plenty of other ways the world is slowly poisoning you.

If you’re a poor renter with a gas stove and no ventilation and a young child in the house, well, I’m sorry, but this entire “debate” has left you behind. Because as we saw with lead paint, the timeline is 1) notice the problem, 2) take 100 years to pass legislation that addresses the problem, and 3) still let the problem affect the most vulnerable people 50 years later. And we’re not even to step 2, yet.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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