Embrace electric stoves to decrease emissions

CITY AFFAIRS: Berkeley is setting an unprecedented example to combat our climate crisis

Illustration of chef standing between electric stove and gas stove
Lily Callender/Staff

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Who knew the city of Berkeley’s decision to ban natural gas would spark such a contentious disagreement with the California Restaurant Association?

The association recently filed a lawsuit, which asserted that cooking with natural gas is integral to preserving food quality prized by so many Bay Area residents. But, in a climate emergency, the transition to electric stoves only seems practical and necessary.

About 27% of Berkeley’s greenhouse gas emissions come from natural gas use in buildings. The city’s unprecedented example of passing legislation to ban natural gas demonstrates its commitment toward reducing citywide carbon emissions. More importantly, however, the ban will only affect restaurants in new buildings, which means that it will initially only impact the small handful of individuals who open restaurants in newly built storefronts. In the context of this lawsuit, the cooperation of those who move into new buildings seems like a small price to pay for the well-being of our planet. 

The association’s lawsuit further alleges that restaurant prices would increase, along with cooking time — a fair point to accentuate on behalf of Berkeley’s top chefs who have worked hard on their craft. But instead of advocating for the city to reverse the ban, the CRA should petition the city to mitigate the high-cost associated with induction equipment by offering subsidies on the appliances — that feels like a reasonable alternative without having to compromise environmentally friendly policies. Additionally, once professional chefs become more comfortable cooking with electric, cooking times will decrease.

Furthermore, with this ban, there will be more pressure on industry professionals to conduct the necessary research to make electric stoves more convenient, efficient and desirable. In fact, induction stoves already top consumer reports, and many have embraced induction for more delicate tasks. Electric appliances continue to become the primary choice for industry professionals and consumers alike, and they will only become more sophisticated with time.

As nearby cities, such as Menlo Park, contemplate following suit and passing similar legislation to ban natural gas, professional chefs will have to accept that electric stoves are on their way to becoming the norm. Eventually, industry professionals will become acclimated to electric stoves, thereby improving their craft and innovating around any limitations that the stoves may provide at the moment. After all, there isn’t a plausible, sustainable alternative to seeking environmentally friendly options.

Switching to electric stoves can seem daunting when most culinary professionals have more experience cooking with natural gas. A new generation of chefs, however, must embrace electric stoves to stand in solidarity with the city’s mission to decrease emissions and promote a healthier environment. Instead of being an adversary to the city’s goals, the CRA should drop the lawsuit and focus on working with government officials to ease the transition from natural gas to electric. The planet’s future depends on collective action to make a difference

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the spring 2020 opinion editor, Simmy Khetpal.