Saving the planet, one electric stove at a time?
That’s the idea in the city of San Luis Obispo.
The progressive SLO City Council wants buyers of new homes to swear off all gas appliances, including the gas stoves preferred by many home cooks — or “pampered chefs” as they’ve been facetiously called.
Under a proposal endorsed by all five council members, home buyers who want gas stoves, or any other gas appliances, installed in their new houses would have to pay an offset fee. The new revenue could then be used to retrofit older homes with electric appliances.
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The basic idea makes sense: Clean electricity from renewable sources (as opposed to dirty natural gas) would reduce carbon emissions and help the city meet its goal of being carbon neutral by 2035.
Not to fan the flames, but why stop there?
If the council really wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a grand scale, it should focus not just on how people are cooking, but also on what they’re cooking.
Take beef. Due to the amount of land and grain needed to raise cattle and that pesky problem of methane production, beef is one of the most environmentally harmful foods you can eat. (One researcher went so far as to say that giving up beef would do more to reduce one’s carbon footprint than getting rid of a car.)
And it isn’t just beef that’s bad (environmentally speaking). A study by Carnegie Mellon University concluded that shellfish is even worse for the environment. Shrimp is especially suspect. According to Mother Jones, 90 percent of shrimp consumed in the U.S. is imported from Asia, and is grown on mangrove forests that have been cleared to make way for shrimp farms. The deforestation is highly detrimental to the environment.
It’s a dilemma, but one the City Council could solve by requiring us to pay an offset fee every time we order a steak, a burger or a shrimp cocktail. Make it exorbitant enough, and it just might drive more restaurants out of business, which would reduce emissions even more.
You see where this is going?
Look, it’s one thing to encourage consumers to choose wisely by offering incentives.
Take the “cash for grass” program. Homeowners voluntarily rip out their lawns and replace them with drought-tolerant plants. That cuts down on water bills and the homeowners get a cash bonus from the agency sponsoring the program.
Or, look at the advantages of buying an electric car: You get a rebate, you’re no longer stuck paying high prices at the pump and you get the choice parking spaces at Target.
But shaming people for choosing gas appliances by charging a fee and labeling them “pampered chefs” goes too far.
We urge the City Council to lighten up.
Encourage going all-electric, the same way you would encourage carpooling or water conservation.
Arrange for demonstrations of induction cooktops and ranges, to make consumers aware of their options.
But please, don’t make home chefs feel like environmental criminals just because they prefer cooking with gas.