Dept. Of Alternative Facts: Hot Air

Hot air (adj & n): local atmosphere which is well above body temperature and therefore personal comfort zone ambience; lectures, debates, comments, or conversation in which one person dominates the interaction with information which no one is interested in nor believes.

Hot Air. Our public space is full of it. Talk about climate change! But, it caught people’s attention, gets their dander up, and leads to more advertising moments. If you believe that, I have ocean front property in Arizona and will throw in the Golden Gate Bridge for free.

Hot air comes and goes like weather systems, for which we have at least two seasons worth of named storms now, and are pretty frequently running out of letters before the season’s end.

The latest, oops, this controversy was at least three week ago, so we have already forgotten about it and been subjected to at least two to three additional Hot Air events, was about gas stoves being band. This resulted in an editorial in a neighboring county’s weekly paper, which got re-printed in our county’s weekly paper, which required a knee-jerk response on my part. Thankfully, I am in better physical shape than any of the four quarterbacks for the 49r’s (I’ll add them to the Golden Gate Bridge, if you’ll believe that).

Letter to the Editor,

The editorial, “From other editor’s desks… Local Flavor” (1/25/23), regarding comments about gas stoves, from Richard Trumka, Jr, of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, illustrates a number of issues in today’s civil discourse.  

In his interview, Mr. Trumka cited a number of health and safety concerns about gas stoves. He then made a general observation about government.  He said, “products that can’t be made safe can be banned”.  He did not make any comments about actual plans to ban gas stoves.

A first observation: public officials, from presidents to policy makers to bureaucrats should prepare their statements, rehearse them, and stick to the topic.  They should take into consideration their intended audience, as well as unintended audiences.  Ears and eyes behind every bush and under every rock these days are waiting for a gotcha moment.  Any committee hearing and page-six interview can become someone’s front-page, above-them-fold controversy.

A second observation: our news and social media are waiting for someone to slip up in order to feed the headlines and promote various agendas.  News media theoretically have some degree of accountability for fact checking. But social media is filled with self-appointed  journalists, pundits, and propaganda ministers waiting for something to post.  

Mr. Trumka’ s gaff had little to do with gas stoves (or automobiles, guns, coal plants, rock climbing gear or any other product that is difficult to make safe) but had a lot to do with what governments have the power to do.  But, the anti-government media jumped at a chance to claim that President Biden wants to rip your gas stove out of your kitchen.  The right, left, center, fringe, and outer space are full of folks waiting for a headline.

A third observation: the potential risk of gas emissions indoors may have less to do with changes in gas stoves, then the changes in how we insulate, heat and cool our homes.  Years ago, we opened windows, turned on fans, and circulated outdoor and indoor air in warmer seasons.  We had marginal insulation, thus during colder seasons we had a degree of air exchange, which allowed off-gassing chemicals to escape.  Now we have well insulated homes, which keep indoor air pollutants inside.  

Mr. Trumka and the Consumer Product Safety Commission might do us better by giving us suggestions for how to contain or reduce gas stove emissions.  How about installing outdoor venting range hoods, rather than the recirculating oven vents that just blow the gasses around the kitchen?  Do the HEPA air filters in central air heating/cooling systems filter out the chemicals?  Maybe we need to change those twice per year?

A fourth observations: Rather than banning some products, let technology replace it.  This is what free economies do.  Quill pens were replaced by ink pens, which were replaced by typewriters, which were replaced by word processors, which were replaced by lap top computers, which are being replaced by cell phones. 

Gas stoves will not be replaced by electric stoves (which actually account for the majority of kitchen fires, a more dramatic risk than invisible gasses), but by induction ranges.  Induction ranges work from the technology of electromagnetism.  Induction ranges uses less energy (and therefore less natural gas, coal or nuclear energy from power plants, or solar or wind power farms), do not put off indoor pollution, and have low risk of kitchen fires.

Were Mr. Trumpka’s comments about gas stove a “recipe for disaster”, as Senator Manchin stated?  I say, No.  Just another “tempest in a tea pot”.  Earl Grey or Camomile?


About hermitsdoor

Up here in the mountains, we have a saying, "You can't get there from here", which really means "We wouldn't go the trouble to do that". Another concept is that "If you don't know, we ain't telling." For the rest, you'll have to read between the lines.
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8 Responses to Dept. Of Alternative Facts: Hot Air

  1. Lavinia Ross says:

    You have succinctly stated the problem, Oscar. You are a voice of reason. Thank you.

    • hermitsdoor says:

      I understand that a city or county in Oregon has banned use of gas appliances in new building. There reasons was not the indoor pollution cited in this controversy, but the larger use of natural gas/methane gas as it contributes much more to atmospheric warming than CO2 in general. I suspect that the anti-gas-ban folks are concerned that the indoor pollution argument is just a cover for the no-methane gas belief.

      • Lavinia Ross says:

        Things in general seem to be in a showdown between the “keeping the way things were” and the “what needs to happen” camps. Old ways of thinking can die hard, and new ones can have some really rough edges before they are tumbled and polished into a form that hopefully will work going forward. I am generally in favor of taking the best of the old and bringing it along with the best of the new, where that can be done. Given the current lack of civility and bipartisanship, as well as inherent tribalism in our species, real progress for humanity is going to be a rough road.

        I have mostly disconnected myself from news outlets except for what I may fleetingly hear on the radio. I caught snippets of news here and there on this issue. I looked this one up, the city appears to be Eugene.

  2. Electricity is clearly the energy of the near future. Unless, of course, you really do want ocean-front property in Arizona. 😉 After that, who knows? Perhaps we will all have a Mr. Fusion in our houses. A girl can dream.

  3. Brother Dave says:

    I’ll see your “hot air” and raise you and opinion piece from the New York Times!

    Initially I had you pegged as a “never Trumpka,” but as I went on I became less sure. Then I decided that letting people use their gas stoves as they please made you sound more libertarian, like letting smokers opt out of Social Security early via lung cancer (as long as there is a warning on the pack of cigarettes from the surgeon general… or in this case the top of the stove.) “Free Markets!” Hermit, when did you join the Tea Party Republicans? The whole observation about the quill pen makes you sound very progressive. It’s a slippery slope from cheering on technological advancements to advocating “replacement theory” for aging workers.

    Oh, the humanity!

  4. I don’t know what to make of the gas stove froufarra, but “generally speaking” I wish we would all save our outrage for things that are outrageous. Then again, as you suggest, it doesn’t take much these days…
    I’ll have Earl Grey in the daytime, chamomile in the evening – or when outraged. Have a great week, my friend.

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