Hi Quartz members!
If you were a real-estate developer anywhere in New York, you would have watched closely as the state’s $229 billion budget inched closer to the finish line. When it was finally passed this week, it made New York the first US state to ban gas heating and cooking hookups in most new buildings.
By 2029, at the latest, these buildings must phase out use of natural gas as a fuel, as it’s a big contributor to climate change. (In 2021, carbon dioxide emissions from burning natural gas accounted for 34% of all US CO2 emissions.) While planning an apartment block, a McMansion, or an office complex, developers will now have to swap in induction ranges for gas-powered stoves. “This is where our nation has to go eventually,” New York governor Kathy Hochul said. “But I want to make sure that it’s not a bumpy road to the transition.”
Readers will not be surprised to learn that US Republicans have a problem with this law, and how it infringes upon our freedom to cook food the way we wish. (It doesn’t hurt that the fossil fuel industry groups most impacted by gas bans are traditional backers of Republican politicians.) So far, 20 US states have passed laws that prohibit any prospective bans on gas, and nearly all of these are red states. Jim Jordan, the Republican US representative from Ohio, added a new article of faith to his party’s credo in January when he tweeted: “Gods. Guns. Gas stoves.”
But the gnarly question of gas versus induction also has unexpectedly polarized the left—which isn’t surprising, perhaps, because the debate hits them hardest. A Morning Consult poll in 2022 found that 47% of respondents who cooked on gas ranges were Democrats, and 39% were Republican. The state with the highest share of homes using gas stoves is true-blue California, followed by just-as-blue New Jersey. And to go at least by stereotype, injunctions against gas ranges affect the gourmandizing ways of well-traveled coastal liberals.
The California Restaurant Association knew this only too well. In petitioning against a 2019 gas stove ban in Berkeley, the group argued that the ban would hurt the area’s creative dining scene. Picking its language carefully, the petition read: “Indeed, restaurants specializing in international foods so prized in the Bay Area will be unable to prepare many of their specialties without natural gas.” Suddenly, the left seemed to be caught between two choices: a cleaner planet or flame-roasted eggplant.
Over the last few years, many chefs have come forward to point out that this is, in fact, a false dichotomy: that nearly every kind of food can be made on induction stoves or in electric ovens. (There are exceptions, such as some kinds of wok cooking. But for the times you just need to char Padrón peppers or a crème brûlée, the TikTok chef Jon Kung told the Guardian, a blowtorch is plenty.) But home cooks also must feel aggrieved about the focus on their lunches and dinners when giant corporations are indulging in behavior that is so much more destructive.
This is an understandable line of thinking, particularly when we’ve discovered, over the years, that the notion of a personal carbon footprint was itself a corporate ploy to deflect from Big Oil’s greed, and that meaningful progress comes about not through one individual’s habits but through deep systemic change. (Think carbon taxes, for instance.)
But in this case, a ban on gas stoves is a way to effect that systemic change. A third of the state of New York’s emissions come from buildings that burn gas for one reason or another. Wiping out demand for gas is a way to shrink New York’s reliance on the fossil fuel industry. If there’s one thing liberals urge in the face of the climate crisis, it is the necessity of some sacrifice for the greater good. That principle has now moved from abstraction to reality for New Yorkers preparing food in new residential buildings and restaurants—even if the sacrifice, essentially, is to find happiness in baba ganoush cooked in the oven.
32%: The share of New York state’s emissions given off by buildings
2026: The deadline for all new buildings shorter than seven stories to install all-electric heat and cooking appliances. For taller buildings, the deadline is 2029.
80: The factor by which methane outstrips carbon dioxide in its power to warm the planet during its first two decades in the atmosphere. Methane is the main component of the natural gas used to cook and heat homes.
4 million: The number of metric tons of CO2 that New York’s law will save by 2040, according to an analysis by the Rocky Mountain Institute
52%: The proportion of New York state households that currently use natural gas, as of 2020, according to the US Energy Information Administration
Gas stoves aren’t the only controversial household appliance. We’re in the age of the smart home—or a kind of smart home, anyway. In the first two episodes of our new Quartz Obsession podcast season, we dig into the pleasures and perils of digitally optimizing our living spaces—and the spectacular events where the precursors of all this tech once made their debut.
All the best films and TV shows about restaurants show perspiration. Chefs bead and drip as they lean over flame burners. (“That’s real sweat,” Bradley Cooper said about his role in Burnt.) Commercial kitchens can get as hot as 45°C (113°Fahrenheit), adding the serious risk of heat stress to the everday hazard of getting singed or burned. Restaurants have discovered, though, that induction stoves offer a cooler, safer kitchen, particularly during the summer months. “You don’t need six or seven quarts of water to keep hydrated,” Amanda Cohen, whose Manhattan restaurant Dirt Candy switched to induction ranges in 2008, told the Washington Post. “It’s not as physically exhausting.” If you can’t stand the heat, stay in her kitchen.
We’ve got good news!
Our members love the Weekend Brief, so we’ve decided to send you not one but two emails each weekend.
Weekend Brief: Sunday Reads will feature the 5 Stories from Elsewhere you know and love, plus more Quartz editor picks, and some information that will help start your week in the know.
Thanks for reading! And don’t hesitate to reach out with comments, questions, or topics you want to know more about.
Have a clean, green weekend,
— Samanth Subramanian, global news editor