In the Pacific Northwest, several cities are considering curtailing the use of natural gas in new and existing buildings, including commercial kitchens, potentially creating a patchwork of ordinances that make operating restaurants difficult. As these municipalities search for new ways to cut carbon emissions, the fate of the gas stove has sparked searing debate between lawmakers, chefs, and restaurant associations.
The National Restaurant Association recently completed a survey and found 94 percent of restaurant owners fear natural gas bans would cause immediate and lasting harm to restaurants by raising costs, resulting in lower-quality food, limiting access to authentic global cuisines and depriving restaurants of reliable energy.
These city-based initiatives to ban gas are ignoring the deep impact on their local restaurant owners and customers. The affordability of natural gas helps restaurants stay in business. Natural gas is projected to be half to one-third the price of other fuels through 2050. Moreover, natural gas ranges tend to have longer shelf lives and lower operating costs than electric ranges, making gas ranges 10 percent to 30 percent more affordable than electric alternatives. In an industry where 60 percent of all businesses close within their first year and still recovering from the economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, those savings can make or break local restaurants.
Restrictions on natural gas-powered appliances have sparked alarm among chefs and restaurant owners alike, who worry any bans on natural gas stoves will fundamentally change the way some cuisines are prepared. Professional chefs and home foodies understand that cooking on a gas stovetop greatly improves performance, citing the precise temperature control that natural gas provides and the ability to heat food on an open flame quickly. These proposed bans undercut cuisines that have relied on open-flame cooking for centuries, including many authentic dishes of East Asian, South Asian and Latin American cuisine.
We’ve all experienced electrical outages in our homes during storms or on other occasions when lines go down or transformers fail, which is a huge inconvenience, but for restaurant owners, it is devastating. All-electric restaurants would be prevented from serving their customers for hours or days at a time. Underground pipelines are highly resilient. Even after extreme weather events like wildfires or winter storms, many restaurants can continue or quickly resume their normal operations, serving their customers (who may not have a gas stove at home during a power outage) and fueling their business at the same time.
The freedom to choose how we cook is important to American households and vital to American restaurants, the vast majority of which are locally-owned and rely on smart policies to ensure their businesses can thrive.