So, can you tell us, why is your gas stove killing you?
Well, I have to pick up Maryam on your great point, which is natural gas a fossil fuel? So I live in Oakland, California now, but I actually grew up in Northwest England. And for my entire childhood, I shovelled coal from the back shed to warm our house. And it was right when natural gas was being drilled for in the North Sea. And we longed to get rid of that call and get natural gas because that was modern and cool and cleaner than coal. And that was sort of my image of natural gas, basically for the last several decades and spent, as you suggested, a lot of time working on retiring coal plants, because we know that they’re really bad for our health. They’re really bad for the climate. And we’ve had enormous success, both in the US and amazing organisations, similarly across in Europe phasing out coal and replacing it with cleaner energy. And then after doing this work for almost 20 years, someone said to me, you know, the biggest piece of your carbon footprint are the four gas appliances in your home. Like your water heater? your furnace, your dryer, and your stove.
Not the dryer? No way. Are you telling the truth?
Four gas appliances: it has a bigger carbon footprint than my car – when I used to have an oil fired car, gasoline car, petrol car –and I had never heard the story. And I was like, it can’t be true. It just can’t be true. So I did my research. And I was like, Oh, yeah, as we’ve been making progress, or all these other sectors as this thing literally under our feet, or in our basement or in the closet, that is emitting enormous amounts of pollution. So that was the first big revelation. But the second that really knocked my socks off, was when someone said, you know, three of those devices are required to be vented outside, all the pollution from heating water, drying the clothes, and heating your space. The pollution when they burn, that gas has to be vented through a chimney outside. One does it. And I was like, the stove. And they’re like, yes, you’re burning a fossil fuel inside a building, inside your home, inside your kitchen, one of the most sacred of all places. And no one told us that when we’re cooking, whether it’s boiling water for pasta, or holiday dinner, that we’re meeting large amounts of pollution inside our homes. And we’re still the levels of pollution that we’ve known about for almost three decades, are above levels that would be illegal outdoors, in our homes.
So that has been a big revelation. And that’s when I first met Maryam, sort of sharing the story of we’re burning fossil fuel is indeed a fossil fuel. And we’re burning inside our home. And because of very effective lobbying by both homebuilders and the gas lobby, we’ve sort of missed this big thing that’s in plain view, that if you think through it, right, it’s a fossil fuel, it’s dirty, when you burn it produces a lot of pollution. We’re doing it in our kitchen. And we’ve never had the regulators or the gas industry Be honest about In fact, we’re posing a serious health risk to people indoors, whenever we have the temerity to turn on our kettle, or cook our dinner.
That’s wild. I didn’t even open the window when I used to cook. That’s so bad. What the heck, I didn’t know that at all. Ah, wait. So all right. Sorry. Sorry to just hijack this, but two questions from the beginning. Firstly, from the last couple of episodes we’ve done, people will have spoken about this idea of cleaner fuels. And is that just a myth? Is everything just bad? Is there no luck? Apart from electricity? Is there nothing that’s good?
It’s a mirage. And they’ve been very effective, right? So, for a long time. The ad agencies in the United States working with a coal industry put out clean coal, you can make coal clean. And it was nothing but an advertising effort to try to rebrand something that is filthy as clean. Now, so when you burn a unit of gas, that unit of coal, yes, in many regards, the gas is cleaner. But that’s sort of like light cigarettes. It’s still smoking. And so if we’re actually trying to have a healthy and sustainable planet, we can’t be burning coal or gas, particularly from a health perspective, and nobody would burn coal in their kitchen without a chimney. And here we are burning gas in our homes without chimneys, and it’s a pollutant that may be very familiar to your audience, because it’s an issue that is front and centre, particularly in London with all the diesel cars. So Europe, as a part of trying to solve this climate change problem, as you know, went hard on investing in diesel engines, and one of the big downsides. One of the several big downsides of diesel is it emits a lot of nitrogen dioxide. That is the same pollution that comes from your gas stove.