Bob Hope first uttered the phrase, “Now you’re cooking with gas,” on The Pepsodent radio show in 1939. It was meant to indicate that someone was making great strides – nearing perfection. Gas stoves began to replace wood burners around 1915 and were a far more reliable form of cooking. By 1939, home and professional cooks everywhere were burning or undercooking fewer meals than ever before.
Today, however, a Stanford University study has found that gas stoves leak significant amounts of methane even when turned off. An amenity in high demand for homebuyers with gourmet cooking in mind, these appliances may be doing far more damage to the environment than previously thought.
In fact, the Stanford researchers say that their estimate for methane emissions from stoves alone is higher than the EPA’s estimate for all residential gas appliances, including water heaters, fireplaces, and HVAC systems combined.
How the study was conducted
Stanford’s twenty-year study measured the emissions of 53 stoves in California while turned on and turned off. The researchers found that 80% of their methane leaks occurred when they were turned off. The age and brand of the stoves had no measurable impact on the results.
Here’s why this matters
According to the report, gas stoves account for 2.6 million tons of methane released into the atmosphere each year. Methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide and accounts for 10 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The impact of these emissions is the equivalent of 500,000 gas-powered cars.
Gas leaks also contain nitrogen dioxide, which is known to cause asthma attacks and other respiratory issues. This gas is responsible for 7 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
How to remedy the problem
There has been a growing push for homeowners to swap out their kitchen’s gas stove and other gas appliances for electric models, but it’s an uphill battle. Gas stoves heat faster and can be less expensive to operate (though homeowners can expect to see their gas bill 30% higher this year). They’re found in over 40 million homes around the U.S., and many proponents, particularly professional chefs, say there is no better way to cook.
Other than switching to an electric stove, researchers suggest having a professional inspection of your gas stove and getting its connectors tightened.
Sources: Stanford University, The Insider, Morning Brew