Banning gas stoves? Berkeley’s way ahead of you

This article was originally published on Monday, January 23, 2023, in The Daily Californian. You can read an archived version at the Internet Archive.

When a member of the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission floated a ban on gas stoves earlier this month, a heated debate played out online and in the media. Conservative pundits panned the proposal, talking of the government “coming for your stove.” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, tweeted an image of a flag emblazoned with a gas range and the words “Don’t tread on Florida.”

President Joe Biden and other Democrats have distanced themselves from the ban, and it is unlikely to be implemented. But in Berkeley, ditching gas stoves isn’t a hot topic or a forlorn proposal. It’s politically feasible, and it’s already here: the city has banned gas lines in new construction since 2020.

“The right’s hysterical culture war meltdown is way behind schedule,” said Berkeley City Councilmember Rigel Robinson in an email. “Electrification of new construction is better for our health & better for our emissions. The science is unambiguous, and developers, architects, and restauranteurs are figuring it out too.”

Beyond an ongoing federal appellate lawsuit from the California Restaurant Association, Berkeley’s ban faced little opposition. Instead, the first-in-the-nation ban sparked similar actions from numerous cities and counties and even the state of California in the hopes of improving indoor air quality and stemming climate change.

Anja Voth, owner and chef of Gaumenkitzel restaurant on San Pablo Avenue, welcomed Berkeley’s ban and believes that legislation is necessary to move away from natural gas. According to Voth, conservative politicians have ignored facts and “exploited” discourse on gas stoves for political power.  

Gaumenkitzel uses both gas and electric appliances, including induction cooktops — an electric cooking technology that is more efficient than traditional electric stoves and similar in responsiveness to gas stoves. Voth added that the ban did not affect her business.

Gerad Gobel, the owner of Rose Pizzeria on University Avenue, is indifferent to Berkeley’s ban. Gobel’s restaurant uses an electric pizza oven and an induction cooktop for preparatory work.

“Both gas and electricity are just tools to accomplish a goal,” Gobel said in an email. “Our oven is all electric, and we love it.… If we ever expand or open another pizza restaurant we will always choose electric. For our style pizza, it gives us the best results.”

Gobel’s main concern about the ban is instead that it won’t happen fast enough. The city’s ordinance only applies to new construction, so the transition away from natural gas will be gradual. With an eye on climate change, Gobel noted that neutralizing emissions from natural gas at this rate could take “generations.”

While Gobel supports eventually moving away from natural gas, Gobel added that not everywhere in the country would be able to handle a ban like Berkeley’s until improvements are made to electrical infrastructure.

“Where I grew up in rural Illinois, with the current infrastructure it would be foolish to run an all electric household. It’s not uncommon to lose electricity for days due to heavy snow,” Gobel said in the email. “Berkeley is in a privileged position as a city with climate and infrastructure that it needn’t worry about these concerns.”

Last updated Monday, January 23, 2023. Written by Gabe Classon.

Tags: Anja Voth, California Restaurant Association, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Gaumenkitzel, Gerad Gobel, Illinois, induction, Rigel Robinson, Ron DeSantis, Rose Pizzeria, San Pablo Avenue, University Avenue