2023 New laws to phase out gas cooking

Even when not in use, gas cookers release harmful chemicals. Image: Shutterstock

In June 2023, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government passed a law banning gas connections to new homes. The law is part of a plan to phase out gas cooking and heating and make Australia’s capital all-electric by 2045. The new rules prohibited all new fossil fuel gas network connections in residential and commercial areas, with connections in industrial areas still permitted. There were already several all-electric suburbs in the Territory. A month later, the Victorian Government announced that a similar ban would apply in that state from January 2024.

While these government initiatives were driven primarily by environmental concerns and the desire to reach their emission targets, there had been increasing publicity about the health risks of using gas in the home – in particular, for cooking. In June 2021, the consumer organisation CHOICE reported on a report from the Climate Council, Kicking the Gas Habit: How Gas is Harming Our Health. According to the report, gas was estimated to be responsible for up to 12% of the burden of childhood asthma in Australia. “A child living with gas cooking in the home faces a comparable risk of asthma to a child living with household cigarette smoke,” the report warned.

There’s plenty of evidence to back up the Climate Council’s conclusions. A US study in 2022 found that gas stove tops leaked dangerous methane gas, even when they weren’t in use. The leaking natural gas also contains benzene, a known carcinogen. Previous studies have also shown that gas cooking produces nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which has many harmful effects on health, particularly for children. It also produces formaldehyde and fine particulates that can cause respiratory problems. While using a range hood vented to the outdoors can reduce the polluting chemicals to some degree, they still accumulate in our homes.

Gas cooking has a long history in Australia. According to Climate News Australia, around 65 % of Australian homes use gas: 15% use bottled gas and the rest are connected to a gas network. Victorians rely on gas more than other states, with 76% of households having a gas connection. We like cooking with gas because it’s instant and easy to control the heat levels but, increasingly, evidence suggests we should be moving to electric alternatives. The new government regulations to phase out gas cooking and heating are a step in that direction. Induction cooktops look to be the way of the future.

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