By Carla Sands*
Cooking with gas has become the epicenter of a recent political firestorm. Comments from Biden-appointed Consumer Product Safety Commissioner Richard Trumka indicating a potential gas stove ban over spurious health concerns led to hasty backtracking from the administration and sympathetic media voices. “No, Biden is Not Trying to Ban Gas Stoves,” protested the New York Times, helpfully noting “that any regulations would apply to new products.” Nothing to see here, folks!
However, the spark was lit, as observers on both sides wasted no time in placing the controversy in the context of the broader climate policy debate—where gas stoves are a not-at-all-new topic of contention. In fact, local climate activist-led bans on gas appliances and gas hookups—and corresponding counter-bans—have proliferated across the country in recent years. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul just became the first governor to propose a statewide ban.
With this context for a potential nationwide gas stove ban, many on the left quickly recognized the need to shift from denial to deflection. They moved instead to paint opponents as aggressors in a right-wing “culture war” against President Biden’s climate agenda. Yet this dismissive“culture war” branding is more telling than its advocates realize.
Ultimately, the issue boils down to a question of cultural control. And the aggressors aren’t those who reject expensive plans to remodel America’s kitchens.
Climate change is increasingly used to justify centralized control over every aspect of day-to-day life. This approach is bolstered by a quasi-religious apocalyptic orthodoxy. While rejecting rational debate on the costs and benefits of differing policy approaches, the practitioners of the climate religion see only one true path forward: a government-led march to decarbonization. And if democracy balks at the human consequences of this radical vision and diverts from the chosen path, the climate zealots turn quickly to unelected bureaucrats to advance their agenda.
Yet, despite the left’s aggressive climate push, the Washington Post quickly tried to claim that the “gas stove furor” was a strategy of the right’s ongoing “culture wars.” They further highlighted discussion of the “significant danger when science and markets get so politicized that even deliberation of commonsense health or climate measures get turned into a political football.”
The dismissive cries of “politicized” debate—much like the accusation of “culture wars” —paint Americans who are concerned about the loss of democratic oversight of increasingly intrusive policies as the real “danger.” In this new framework, “common sense” is out of the commoner’s reach. Instead, common sense is the purview of elite experts such as John Kerry’s “select group” of “extraterrestrial” thinkers.
But the common American has cause for concern. Take the push for electrification in pursuit of climate goals, whether by market-manipulating subsidies or regulatory fiat. The war on gas stoves is just one manifestation of this effort—the push for electric vehicles is another visible action.
Under these climate-obsessed policies, the regulatory state intentionally makes Americans increasingly dependent upon a strained grid for everything from transportation to heat to business—all with an eye toward nationalization. Yet while expanding grid dependence, the Biden Administration wages war on traditional energy and grid reliability. Compounding misguided market-distorting subsidies for intermittent energy, like wind and solar, the administration readily wields the federal regulatory cudgel against critically-needed capacity development.
Thus, despite America being a Nation of energy abundance, higher-cost energy and the threat of grid failures, blackouts, and electricity rationing are on course to become a regular phenomenon. Already, a quarter of Americans are at risk of potential blackouts this winter. What’s more, America’s utility providers have openly admitted that radical “Net Zero” goals are unattainable even if Biden’s electrification push is successful. This is what true commonsense Americans call a lose-lose scenario.
Unfortunately, the Biden Administration continues to push for a centrally planned energy market that picks winners and losers and encourages energy scarcity instead of abundance. This hinders the very free-market innovation that led America to be the global leader in emissions reduction and reduced costs to consumers.
Central planning, as history teaches us, inevitably leads to austerity and the subjugation of prosperity and opportunity to some unattainable utopian dream. In this case, it’s decarbonization.
In essence, the climate culture war waged by the left seeks centralized control and, with it, the inevitable consequence of centralized failure. If America takes this path, the destination is not the promised land, but rather an energy desert that fails to meet our basic human needs and climate targets alike. And it is hardworking Americans—not the elite—who will suffer most.
Embracing the regulate everything, build nothing agenda of woke climate radicals only leads us backward to deindustrialization. Instead, embracing the foundational “cultural” principles of competition and innovation can best harness American abundance and lead us to a better future of freedom and prosperity for all.
*Carla Sands serves as the Vice Chair of the Center for Energy & Environment at the America First Policy Institute. She previously served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Denmark.
This article is part of an agreement between El American and America First Policy Institute.