Commentary: Gas ban would have huge consequences for businesses

March 27, 2023

Lucas Stritsman | March 24, 2023

Make no mistake about it: Gov. Kathy Hochul is absolutely coming for your gas appliances.

Government officials, environmental advocates and members of the media can roll their eyes over the outcry or come up with euphemisms – like calling it a “phaseout” – but whatever you call it, once New York outlaws the purchase of new gas appliances, my family-owned small business, and possibly hundreds of other mom-and-pop shops across the state, will go out of business. And the environmental or health benefits being touted by supporters of the ban are either wildly overstated or simply nonexistent.

So far, the debate around the ban has been set up as environmental advocates against consumers and homeowners, with very little attention being paid to business owners – like me – who sell these popular appliances. According to the Northeast Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association, there are more than 3,000 businesses – many of them family owned – across New York that sell gas-fired grills, stoves, fireplaces, and similar items. Beyond that, there are thousands of associated businesses, including builders, repair personnel, and retail workers, that work in the industry.

For these New York business owners and employees, the impact of such a ban would be much more than simply losing access to gas for cooking, heating and recreation. Hochul’s policy would devastate hundreds of small businesses and local contractors, with consequences for our state’s economy and tens of thousands of people who live and work here.

My business was founded in 1977 by my father, Wayne Stritsman. Over the years it grew to employ 38 people and helped more than 100,000 happy clients. Our business has put me and my siblings through college, and it helped my employees do the same. Over 70 percent of our business is in high-efficiency gas fireplaces, which require skilled technicians, whom we employ, to install and service. Once the ban on gas goes into effect, I don’t know how we’re going to survive. Thousands of local fireplace businesses like mine will be forced to lay off our skilled workers.

Supporters of the ban are arguing that eliminating gas appliances would be good for the environment and people’s health. They ignore the fact that all of the products we sell are heavily regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, with strict certifications and emissions protocols. And it’s hard to quantify the environmental benefits of eliminating gas appliances in New York on a global scale – which is the only way to measure the impact on our climate – mostly because it would be so unbelievably small. According to a study from Stanford, all of the gas stoves in the country contribute about 0.18 percent of the pollution produced by cars in the United States. What percentage of that comes from New York? What percentage of that contributes to global emissions?

Since taking office, Gov. Hochul has said over and over that improving the economy was a top priority during her first full term in office. However, policies like this fast-moving “phaseout” of gas appliances would do the opposite, with virtually no measurable benefit for New Yorkers’ health or our environment. Don’t ignore the fact that keeping good businesses like mine will keep New Yorkers employed with good-paying jobs, making New York a great place to live.

Lucas Stritsman is the president and general manager of Best Fire Hearth & Patio, based in Albany.