Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Friday, October 23, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Rain 33° Rain
News >  Spokane

The Rock Doc: Kitchen stoves offer a lesson in carbon control

E. Kirsten Peters

My elderly aunt recently came into some money. She decided – very generously – to send part of it to each of her nieces and nephews. This gave me the task of choosing how I wanted to spend an unexpected $1,000. I decided to buy a new range for my kitchen. I wouldn’t otherwise buy a new appliance, and by spending the money on a range I will be able to remember my aunt and bless her name each night as I cook supper.

My old range was electric. The oven was slow and the burners were problematic. I replaced all the burners but still had unpredictable and inconsistent heating. I grew up with a natural gas cook stove, so decided to buy one for my house. I like gas because you can see when it’s on, because it cuts off instantly, and because I think of natural gas as a pretty clean fuel we can get from domestic sources.

No sooner had I made up my mind about what to do with the unexpected money than my brother Nils explained he plans to change from a gas range to an electric one.

Nils is truly concerned about our production of greenhouse gases. He wants to eliminate his household’s carbon pollution, and he’s willing to do some real work to meet that goal.

One step for my brother is to switch his appliances from natural gas to electricity. His idea is that if he uses natural gas to cook supper, he’s making carbon dioxide that adds to what’s building up in the atmosphere. If he uses electricity to do those same tasks, he can – at least in principle – avoid the production of greenhouse gases.

I like to say to my brother that not all his power can come from carbon-neutral sources like windmills or solar panels. After all, he uses electricity when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. In short, we all need what the utility people call “base load power.” Across the country, that kind of power comes from several different things, but part of it is from natural gas power plants. From my perspective, we all are “sinners” when it comes to greenhouse gas production, including people who only own electric appliances.

Nils counters that our need for base load power is not a rationale to continue business as usual, it’s just another challenge to be met by conservation or energy storage. Meanwhile, he is working hard to construct a building that will be the size of a small house for use as a commercial kitchen. The building is super-insulated and has a solar air heater, a solar water preheater and LED lighting. The heat is electric, but because of the clever designs, very few kilowatt-hours are needed to keep the place warm.

While we disagree about some things, I really applaud my brother’s building efforts. Not many of us put our money where we say our values are.

Dr. E. Kirsten Peters, a native of the rural Northwest, was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard universities. This column is a service of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University.
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter

Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.

New health insurance plans available Nov. 1 through Washington Healthplanfinder

 (Photo courtesy WAHBE)

Fall means the onset of the cold and flu season.