Gas stove top

Leaky gas cookers emit the equivalent of half a million petrol cars even when switched off. Gas industry says “virtue-signalling activism” to gas health risk.

Do you have a gas stove? 

New research has found that gas-burning stove tops are leaking the greenhouse-gas (GHG) equivalent of half a million petrol cars, not to mention the health risk of leaking methane in our homes. 

Shockingly, more than three quarters of methane emissions from stove tops were leaking into houses while the appliances were not in use.

“Most of the methane we measured leaked to the air while the stoves were off.”

The study, published in the journal of Environmental Science and Technology, found that gas leaks from stove top cookers in 40 million US homes produce around 28,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases per year.

“Our biggest surprise was that most of the methane we measured leaked to the air while the stoves were off,” study co-author Professor Robert Jackson from Stanford University said. 

According to Professor Jackson, this most likely results from leaking fittings. The researchers are hoping to replicate the study in Australia, where they believe the results would be largely comparable. 

A report released last year from Australian thinktank Rewiring Australia found that ditching household gas and petrol use would slash GHG emissions by a third. 

There are reportedly more than 4 million homes connected to the gas network, with over 18 million residential gas appliances used across the country. 

France, New York City, and Berkeley, California have already banned gas in new households. Ditching household gas and petrol could reduce emissions by a third. 

In Victoria, the Gas Substitution Roadmap plan to decarbonise the gas sector is set to be released early this year. Both the Victorian government and gas industry have pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into expanding and maintaining gas networks over the past decade, with public subsidies only very recently ceasing, but not before the state dropped $42.5 million to probe for new resources through the Victorian Gas Program.

The global move to ban gas keeps growing

Some countries and cities have led the charge to ban household natural gas. 

Berkeley, California became the first US city to ban gas hookups in most new homes and buildings in 2019. Meanwhile a New York City ban on natural gas in buildings under seven stories tall will take effect next year. 

And in France, environmental regulations dictate that new homes cannot have gas boilers installed. 

Cooking with a health hazard

More bad news was already shown to gas-stove users as a report last year found that gas stoves pose a health hazard. Nitrous oxides and fine particulates released when the stove is on can build up quickly in the household and contribute to respiratory diseases. 

This is particularly a risk for renters and the more vulnerable in our communities, children, and the elderly. 

The Climate Council report found that the use of gas in homes is not only driving GHG emissions but also exposing children to a higher risk of asthma.

“Cooking with gas is estimated to be responsible for up to 12 per cent of the childhood asthma burden in Australia,” Climate Council spokeswoman Dr Kate Charlesworth said.

“A child living with gas cooking in the home faces a comparable risk of asthma to a child living with household cigarette smoke,” she said.

“Clean and natural” gas or a load of hot air?

Energy Networks Australia was quick to call the health findings “overheated, over-politicised and over-simplified” “virtue-signalling activism”.

The national industry body, which represents Australia’s electricity transmission and distribution and gas distribution networks, reported that 65 per cent of Australians rely on gas for their household needs. 

The report pushed natural gas as the “natural” energy choice for consumers – claiming that household natural gas supplied through pipelines produces 75 per cent less emissions than electricity from the grid…  

The gas industry continues to claim that gas is “clean and natural” 

Meanwhile financial comparison site Canstar published the objectionable claim that natural gas is “much cleaner for consumers”. Cleaner than what? This is not stated.

And among the information supplied by Energy Networks Australia to Canstar is this load of hot air: “This highlights the importance of gas networks’ plans to decarbonise to deliver customers 100 per cent renewable gas.” Important, sure – it very much is. Likely? Not at all. 

How can the industry continue to market gas as “clean and natural”? 

Gas is more expensive than electrification of the home; its infrastructure is unstable for hydrogen because hydrogen molecules are tiny and so leakage is unavoidable, hydrogen is suited to some industry processes but far too expensive for the home – retrofitting the pipe networks being just one of the barriers. 

See our article: Victoria needs to shut the door on gas

The Australian gas sector claims that it plans to fully decarbonise by 2050, manoeuvring towards hydrogen and biogas (a form of methane produced by fermenting organic matter) as renewables. 

While this is a good idea on the surface, Climate Council says that this is being used as a PR smokescreen for the gas industry to continue delaying any real action on climate change. There is not enough of this energy source to go around, making it insufficient to reach net zero. 

Similar to unproven carbon-capture tech, it seems that for now the gas industry’s plan to decarbonise is “virtue-signalling” greenwashing. 

Perhaps it’s time to say goodbye to gas and embrace electrification and proven renewable tech such as wind and solar.

UPDATE 1 February 2022: Today’s Australian Electoral Commission donation disclosures reveal that fossil fuel companies are a major donor to Australian political parties. 

The disclosures show that $959,155 was donated to the three major parties from fossil fuel companies during the 2020-2021 financial year, $80,000 more than was donated the previous year. 

The Liberal Party received $506,810 while the Labor party received $392,354. The largest fossil fuel donor was Woodside, with $232,350 donated to the Liberal and Labor parties. 

Climate action group 350.org Australia has called for an end to the donations. 

 “Gas companies are some of Australia’s biggest political donors and are the recipients of massive public subsidies from the Government. It’s clear that money is talking,” 350 senior campaigner Shani Tager said. 

“Companies like Woodside Energy are trying to buy support for their controversial gas projects like the disastrous Scarborough project in WA.”

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