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YVONNE ABRAHAM

Gasbags of the GOP

Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Tex.) leaves a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., in July 2021.Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

Get a grip, guys.

Here’s, er, colorful Congressman and apparent culinary artisan Ronny Jackson reacting to the fictional but oh so politically useful threat that America’s gas stoves might be outlawed.

“I’ll NEVER give up my gas stove,” tweeted the Texas Republican. “If the maniacs in the White House come for my stove, they can pry it from my cold dead hands. COME AND TAKE IT!!”

His colleague Jim Jordan, the Ohio Republican whose hair is permanently aflame, was more succinct: “God. Guns. Gas Stoves.”

For cripes’ sake, are we really doing this? This is what happens when a whole political party has nothing to offer the country except culture-war provocations and phony outrage. Instead of offering actual policies, these clowns just lurch from one manufactured crisis to the next, spinning cotton candy controversies out of buzzwords and flags.

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Our plan to deal with inflation? Sure, but look over there! The big bad Democrats are coming after our hamburgers, our straws, our lady M&Ms, our Mr. Potato Heads, and now, our beloved patriotic gas burners!

This latest parody-defying panic started the way they all do: Some genius got ahold of some sliver of a fact, twisted it all up and fed it into the right-wing echo chamber. A study — the latest in a long line — found that gas stoves are awful for the environment and dangerous for those who live with them, even when they’re off, emitting chemicals that worsen rates of childhood asthma, among other maladies.

A member of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is looking into how to make the stoves safer, told a Bloomberg reporter recently that “products that can’t be made safe can be banned.” Attempts to clarify that perfectly reasonable statement — who wouldn’t want to make dangerous appliances safer, and to ban them if that isn’t possible? — came too late to head off the utterly predictable uproar. Now we learn that every GOP blowhard has been a lifelong devotee of blue flames and super-responsive temperature controls.

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Republicans get a twofer with this one: In addition to creating a useful distraction, they get to defend the fossil fuel interests that own them.

But like all of their crusades, this is not really about gas, but government — enemy number one for the GOP since the sainted Ronald Reagan ascended to power. Over the decades, the party has doubled down on his gospel that government — especially its protections and programs for less powerful people — is the real problem, determined to get between true Americans and their way of life.

That orthodoxy is largely responsible for our relative inaction in the face of climate change. The legislation passed by the Democrats last year will bring immense progress in the fight against environmental damage, but was nowhere near as radical as it needed to be to head off the worst impacts of global warming. It does, however, contain billions of dollars to help households kick the gas that runs those sacred stoves.

Whether Republicans like it or not, word is spreading about the harm gas stoves do all the way from the pipeline to the cooktop. Some states and cities across the country are responding to the hazards, introducing building codes and other regulations encouraging developers to choose electric cookers and heating systems.

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We’re headed this way in Massachusetts: A climate bill passed here last year would allow 10 cities and towns to limit gas hookups in new construction. Eventually, gas will go the way of asbestos, or secondhand smoke, though neither was easily addressed: We smoked on airplanes for a long time. Despite the strenuous efforts of the fossil fuel industry and their defenders, more and more people will recognize the dangers of gas and more localities will choose to protect residents from the harm it can do. A tipping point will come.

But not soon enough. And Republicans are doing their best to delay the inevitable, to protect their benefactors and their own political fortunes.

Meantime, more kids — especially those who live in low-income communities — will be sick with asthma, and more pollutants will be released into the air, making it that much harder to pull ourselves back from the brink. And all of that will cost lives.

But hey, maybe the cheap political points are worth it.


Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham can be reached at yvonne.abraham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeAbraham.