A new culture war battle has broken out over gas stoves, with Republicans arguing that talk of a federal ban is an example of government overreach into the lives of Americans.
“Don’t tread on Florida, and don’t mess with gas stoves!” tweeted Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) last week in response to comments from a member of the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) that a ban might one day be possible given health concerns about the stoves.
An actual ban is unlikely. The head of the commission, which makes its decisions independent of the White House, said he was not looking to ban gas stoves.
The White House has also come out against a ban.
Supporters of either a ban or more regulations on new gas stoves point to concerns about both climate change and public health. Assessments have found that these stoves can emit planet-warming and health-harming pollutants in homes, and a recent study found that 12.7 percent of childhood asthma cases in the U.S. were attributable to gas stove use.
Yet, Republican strategists say that the issue can be used effectively by the GOP to win attention and support from voters.
“It’s your stove, it’s your lightbulb, and those are consumer issues and economic issues, they’re also culture war issues,” said Republican strategist Doug Heye, referring to another flashpoint in incandescent versus LED bulbs.
“It’s part of how Republicans feel that Democrats are targeting parts of Americans’ everyday lives,” Heye added.
He said the suggestion of the ban “handed them a gift” as they try to talk about Democrat overreach.
This is not the first time that Republicans have sought to attack Democrats on policies related to household items. During his rallies, then-President Trump railed against showers and toilets that did not have enough water pressure, as well as against energy-efficient light bulbs.
Some have gone even further, claiming that the administration is coming after red meat, which the administration described as a “fabrication.”
Asked about the rhetoric surrounding stoves and other appliances, Republican strategist Keith Naughton said it was smart to talk about the issues in terms that people can relate to.
“You want to communicate to people about things that are relatable,” said Naughton, who is also an opinion contributor for The Hill.
He said he doesn’t think any individual issue is “Earth-shaking,” but pieced together they can form a larger narrative, namely that Democrats are “never going to stop until there’s somebody in your home monitoring everything you do.”
The political frenzy over gas stoves began after CPSC Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. recently reiterated that a ban was possible as the commission looks at health hazards associated with the products.
If the commission wishes to further regulate stoves without going as far as a ban, it may consider options such as requiring the appliances to include technology aimed at limiting the releases of harmful substances or warning labels informing people of their health impacts.
In December, a group of 20 Democrats called on the commission to look at options like these in a letter that did not call for an outright ban.
Christy Goldfuss, chief policy impact officer at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, told reporters this week that Republicans were using a “playbook” that is “pretty well-known.”
Goldfuss, who worked on environmental issues in the Obama White House, said the rhetoric is “absolutely a distraction” from the benefits that can come from transitioning away from such items.
“We as advocates have to be aware of that and ready to push back quickly on this idea that it’s about deprivation,” she said.
Democratic strategist Jonathan Kott, a former aide to Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.), said that in response, Democrats should talk about ways in which they are helping the country.
“Democrats should talk about big picture issues and focus on how they’re making the country a better place for millions of Americans,” he said, citing recent legislation that had major accomplishments on climate, health, tax policy, infrastructure and semiconductors.
Republican strategist Colin Reed, meanwhile, said he expects the issue to play out more significantly in state, local and down-ballot races. Some states and cities have implemented or considered either bans on gas appliances in new buildings or preemptions to prevent such bans within their borders.
“The Biden administration’s now said they’re not for it, so the battle moves from the federal level to the state level,” Reed said.
“This fight’s going to the states, it’s going to the counties,” he added. “The fact that we’re even talking about this and that we’ve spent the better part of seven days speaking about it indicates its potency as an issue.”