Half of gas stove models sold in the United States today won’t comply with a first-ever efficiency regulation on cooking appliances, according to a new analysis from the Department of Energy.
The projection, which DOE posted online two weeks after the rule’s release Jan. 31, aims to provide more clarification on the expected impact of a proposal earlier this month that is now receiving comments from the public (Energywire, Feb. 1).
DOE says the cooking regulation will preserve some market share for gas stoves that have at least one high-input rate burner and continuous cast iron grates, two features that DOE determined are priorities for the public. Both features use a lot of energy.
“DOE’s analysis is constructed so that the proposed standard would ensure that products with at least one HIR burner and continuous grates can continue to be available on the market,” Jeremy Ortiz, a department spokesperson, told E&E News on Thursday.
“We did go out of our way to make sure that these two features would remain on the market in creating our analysis,” Ortiz said. “Over half the market would remain if this standard is finalized as proposed.” Ortiz’s comments provide more context on a plan that has triggered partisan rancor in Washington D.C.
DOE mentioned the 50 percent projection in a memo called a notice of data availability released last week to present new analysis on market impacts and answer questions lobbed by industry. In that document, DOE said 40 percent of the current gas stove market does not have those two features and would likely comply with the proposed regulation of 1,204 thousand British thermal units (kBtu) of energy use annually.
Another small slice of the current gas stove market has the HIR and continuous grate features and already complies with the proposed regulation, bringing current compliance with the proposal to roughly half, DOE says.
That means roughly half the gas stove models purchased across the U.S. today will no longer be eligible for purchase in stores. It doesn’t mean that half the market will have to be electric, but that the gas stove industry will have to change what it sells to meet the standard. The 50 percent estimate was not included in the rule in January, but DOE referenced it to the Wall Street Journal shortly after the release of the proposal.
If enacted, the proposed rule would be the second major DOE regulation affecting stovetops — existing standards prohibit constant burning pilots for gas cooking products. DOE is moving forward with the rule along with other efficiency standards, including for distribution transformers, washing machines and refrigerators (Energywire, Feb. 16).
DOE says the cooking appliance proposal would slash 21.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and 244.9 thousand tons of methane, as well as lead to big reductions in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.
Manchin and industry pushback
For the companies that produce and sell gas stoves, the 50 percent projection is adding more confusion — and sparking indignation.
“They were desperate to show better numbers because their analysis is such a poor justification of what they’re proposing,” said Jill Notini, vice president of communications and marketing at the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers.
“It’s like they’re in such a rush to regulate these products, and they’re trying to cover their tracks,” Notini said. “But they’re doing an incredibly poor job of it. We have never seen this level of sloppy analysis from DOE before. We are not against standards. We’ve been at the table since the very beginning.”
Notini pointed to a table buried deep in a 525-page technical support document released by DOE in December. It showed 20 of 21 DOE-tested models failed to comply with the 1,204 kBtu threshold set by the proposed rule. That testing sample has fueled accusations from critics that DOE is aiming to bar 96 percent of the market.
“Now we’ve got the DOE throwing out all common sense, prohibiting 96 percent of existing gas stoves,” Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) said at a congressional hearing last week. “Just when I thought it couldn’t get more ridiculous, it did.”
“[President Biden] knows politically he’s got an absolute firestorm on his hands,” Daines said.
Daines grilled DOE about the market impact projection in a Feb. 22 letter shared with E&E News. The Montana senator also asked for DOE to brief members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee before the comment period on the rule closes in early April.
In 2020, 38 percent of Americans used gas to cook in their homes, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the data analysis arm of DOE. Natural gas is also more than three times cheaper to cook with than electricity, EIA says.
Lawmakers like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) have warned the Biden administration against taking gas stoves from U.S. homes. DOE lacks the legal authority to remove products from homes and businesses. The efficiency proposal, which if finalized wouldn’t be implemented until three years later, targets newly manufactured models, not the removal of current products from homes and businesses.
DOE says the test sample in the support document — the ammunition for critics — isn’t reflective of the current market.
“Suggestions that only 1 out of 21 (4%) stoves would meet the proposed standards without significant modification are misleading and misinterpreting data,” Ortiz said. “DOE presented a set of data of units that we physically tested — this should not be confused with percentage of products that would meet the standard. The tested sample is just a small subset of models that better help DOE understand the annual energy consumption of these units.”
‘There’s really nothing strange’
Supporters of the efficiency standards say they are firmly in line with DOE’s obligations under the law. The law says that DOE is periodically required to update standards for appliances and industrial equipment to make “maximum improvement in energy efficiency … which the Secretary determines is technologically feasible and economically justified.”
“There’s really nothing strange or unusual about the latest proposal for gas stoves,” said Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project. “It would simply ensure that manufacturers include readily available design changes in their gas stoves that would reduce needless gas waste.”
A court settlement also obligates DOE to finalize the cooking efficiency rule by January 2024.
But lawmakers and analysts allied with fossil fuels argue the proposal is one front in a “war on natural gas.” In recent months, Consumer Product Safety Commissioner Richard Trumka repeatedly floated a ban on gas stoves.
“This proposed rule comes with a somewhat controversial background regarding another agency. I think it’s still very, very concerning for natural gas stoves,” said Ben Lieberman, an efficiency expert at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “This is a big part of the climate agenda … this effort to stop the use of natural gas.”