Gas stove debate sparks racial talk from Democrats as Biden officials duck public grilling
The Biden administration’s proposed gas stove efficiency rules were placed on the front burner Wednesday as House lawmakers sparred over potential regulations that have Department of Energy officials laying low.
The House Oversight Committee and the chamber’s Energy and Commerce Committee held hearings on the opposition of new regulations on the popular appliance used by roughly 40% of U.S. households that’s at the center of a culture war.
As Democrats on the House Oversight panel defended DOE’s rules that would render at least half of current new models out of compliance, Democratic Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri criticized Republicans for not focusing more on racial inequalities posed by health and climate change.
“I wish my Republican colleagues were as concerned about Black and brown communities on the frontlines of our climate crisis as they are about an appliance,” Ms. Bush said. “St. Louis ranks among the highest across our country in rates of asthma, with rates significantly higher for Black residents than White residents.”
Rep. Pat Fallon, the Texas Republican who chaired the hearing, doubled down on the assertion from conservatives that the rules are cloak and dagger for a de facto ban on gas stoves.
“It isn’t a ban; it’s regulating them out of existence,” Mr. Fallon said. “We were told gas stoves are hazardous or they’re disproportionately harming people of color.”
“I guess by implication,” Mr. Fallon continued, “gas stoves could be racist. Or are they just better to help us scramble some eggs and make some crispy bacon?”
Two DOE officials from the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy snubbed the hearing, as The Washington Times first reported Tuesday evening.
Acting Assistant Secretary Alejandro Moreno and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency Carolyn Snyder declined invitations from Republicans to testify about the proposed rules because they are not yet finalized and are subject to change.
“Let’s get the facts straight,” a DOE spokesperson told The Times in a statement. “Congress requires DOE to review and update energy efficiency rules and even more, a court decree requires agency action. DOE is a law-abiding agency that takes its legal obligations seriously. Despite attempts to misinform the public and undermine efforts to lower energy bills nationwide, the American people continue to support the department‘s actions that are saving them money.”
The department pointed to a Morning Consult poll from April that found almost half of Republican voters and three-fourths of Democrats would back stricter federal energy efficiency requirements.
Meanwhile, the House Energy and Commerce Committee debated separate GOP-led bills from Reps. Debbie Lesko of Arizona and Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota to safeguard gas stoves from bans and regulations.
DOE Secretary Jennifer Granholm testified to a separate House committee this month that the rules will primarily target high-end stoves and are required as part of periodic upgrades to appliance regulations under the Energy Policy Conservation Act of 1975. She denied that the administration is trying to ban gas stoves as blue cities and states move to curb the use of natural gas for climate and health reasons.
“Nobody’s taking my gas stove; nobody will take your gas stove,” Ms. Granholm told lawmakers in that hearing. “But in the future, gas stoves that are high-end — which is all that we looked at — can be more efficient.”
Still, the DOE’s absence Wednesday drew jeers from Republicans. Mr. Fallon revealed that he and House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer of Kentucky will seek testimony from DOE Under Secretary for Science and Innovation Geri Richmond about the “entire Department of Energy rulemaking agenda for home appliances.”
“The Department of Energy refused to come, claiming that the rulemaking process is ongoing. That is exactly when Congress should be asking questions. Not when it is finished,” Mr. Fallon said. “What is the Department of Energy hiding? Why is it afraid to come and answer questions about one of its priorities before elected representatives?”
Rep. Jared Moskowitz of Florida, one of 29 House Democrats who voted in March with Republicans to block the new gas stove rules as an amendment to a broader GOP energy package, came prepared to Wednesday’s hearing with a sarcastic-laden statement about focusing on household appliances rather than more pressing issues like gun violence.
“I get that every morning as you’re getting your coffee, and it’s warm, you stare into the knobs of your beautiful stainless-steel beauty. I get the bravado: We can pry your gas stove from your cold dead hands, or give me my gas stove or give me death,” Mr. Moskowitz said. “I want to apologize on behalf of the Democratic Party that we have decided to put kids’ safety in their neighborhoods from getting gunned down in movie theaters, or grocery stores, or school churches, or synagogues — we as Democrats have clearly lost our way that we’re not focused on appliances.”