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Gas stoves can leak methane even when they are off, which can increase climate change

Gas stoves can leak methane even when they are off, which can increase climate change

Gas stoves leak methane even while off, boosting climate change

A new study shows that gas stoves are contributing more towards global warming than previously thought. This is due to tiny methane leaks that occur while they’re off.

The same study that measured the emissions from stoves in homes raised concerns about indoor air quality and safety due to the high levels of nitrogen oxides.

Even when they are not running, U.S. gas stoves are putting out an amount of methane equivalent to 2.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, a team of California researchers found in a study published in Thursday’s journal Environmental Science & Technology. That’s equivalent to the annual amount of greenhouse gases from 500,000 cars or what the United States puts into the air every 3.5 hours.

Rob Jackson, a Stanford University climate scientist, stated that the study’s coauthor Rob Jackson said that the methane is constantly being released into the atmosphere.

That methane is on top of the 6.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide that gas stoves emit into the air when they are in use and the gas is burned, the study said. Methane is a greenhouse gases that is dozens of-times more potent than carbon dioxide, but doesn’t last as long in the atmosphere and isn’t nearly as abundant in it.

The methane leaked by stoves when they’re off is on top of the 6.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide that gas stoves emit into the air when they are in use and the gas is burned, the study said. (Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

The researchers examined 53 home kitchens in California — many in bed and breakfasts they rented. The researchers sealed most rooms with plastic tarps, and measured the methane emissions when the stoves worked and when they didn’t. Jackson said that it was astonishing that three-quarters the methane was released while the stoves weren’t on. Jackson stated that those are emissions releases the government doesn’t account for.

Eric Lebel (a scientist at PSE Healthy Energy of Oakland) said that the study was a major deal as it aims to reduce carbon emissions. He said that much of the benefit disappears once leaks are considered.

Some U.S. cities banning gas stoves

Jackson stated that there are many communities that have bans on gas stoves in future construction. These include New York City, San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and Berkeley.

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Frank Maisano, a Washington-based policy and public relations expert representing gas and appliance interests, stated that “People can already choose electrical appliances if they wish.”

Gas appliances are preferred by people because they perform better in colder climates. Natural gas appliances are typically more efficient than electric ones and less expensive.

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The importance of the findings

Jackson estimated that when all natural gas use and extraction is taken into account, about 91 million tonnes of gas leaks into the atmosphere. And the couple million tonnes from gas stoves “is meaningful. It’s a significant part, and one that we haven’t included accurately in past years.

The leakage finding is “a very important takeaway” and fits with other work that found there are often big leaks that account for much of the emissions, said Zachary Merrin, a research engineer with the Illinois Applied Research Institute’s Indoor Climate Research & Training group.

Merrin, who was not part of the study, stated that the un-combusted methane emissions are “clearly harmful.” Emissions-wise, cooking with gas is better than using an electric stove powered by fossil fuels but worse than using an electric stove powered by solar power.

Stoves raise health concerns too

Jackson stated that methane is not dangerous for human health and can be used as an explosive. Researchers found that the methane leak was not dangerous to human health or a potential explosive. However, they discovered high levels of nitrogen oxides in the tests. They measured more than 100 parts per million. Jackson stated that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not have indoor air quality standards for this gas, but the measurements they took exceeded its outdoor air quality standards. He stated that while methane does contain nitrogen, the nitrogen oxides are a byproduct of natural gas oven combustion.

Maisano stated that people should use hood ranges to ensure proper ventilation. Jackson, who owns a gas stove he wants to replace, stated that he has been using ventilation since the beginning of this study.

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