EID Asks When Anti-Fracking Chefs Will Stop Using Gas

Extremist anti-industry activist group Food & Water Watch’s has recently focused its “Chefs Against Fracking” campaign on California and has (sadly) attracted the support of one of the pioneers of California cuisine, Alice Waters of Berkeley’s legendary Chez Panisse. The campaign is designed to pressure Governor Jerry Brown to “implement a moratorium now” on hydraulic fracturing.

Many people take the “ban fracking” position, even though it is economically destructive and lacks any reasonable environmental justification. But taking such a position is particularly interesting for some of California’s chefs, who themselves depend heavily on affordable natural gas in their kitchens.

Recently, EID sent an open letter to Waters and her top chef Jerome Waag, who have been outspoken opponents of hydraulic fracturing – asking them a simple question: If you oppose hydraulic fracturing, then when will you stop using natural gas, which itself is extracted via that very process?

Here are some more details:

  • According to the Congressional Research Service, approximately 90 percent of all new oil and natural gas wells undergo hydraulic fracturing. Continuing to use a fuel whose production these chefs do not support would be hypocritical. Assuming the chefs are serious about their position on hydraulic fracturing, and not merely using it as a free advertising opportunity in the media with no principled basis, then it stands to reason that the chefs should immediately stop using natural gas.
  • A recent survey found that 98 percent of chefs prefer using natural gas in their kitchens over other heating options. But as opponents of hydraulic fracturing, the continued use of natural gas is obviously not consistent with the beliefs of the chefs who signed Food & Water Watch’s petition. One option is electric heating, which cooks slower and is often costlier than natural gas, although millions of homes across the country do use electricity for their cooking. Another option could be open-pit fires in the middle of the kitchen. In any event, it will be interesting to learn how the chefs will cook the meals that are in high demand from their customers once natural gas has been phased out of their operations.
  • Here in California, natural gas is not only the largest fuel source for electricity generation; it accounts for more than twice as much electricity as any other option. With the recent closure of the San Onofre nuclear plant, natural gas is expected to fill much of the supply gap. Once again, true opponents of hydraulic fracturing cannot credibly support continued consumption of a fuel that requires the use of that process. So if the chefs rely on electric cooking, then how will they guarantee that the electricity is not produced by natural gas? The use of rooftop solar is an option, but their customers who visit during the evening rush when the sun is setting may not appreciate cold food and long wait times – or significantly higher costs. Wind power may also be an option, but people tend to get hungry even when the wind isn’t blowing.

By ending the use of natural gas in their kitchens, these chefs would actually be doing something substantial to live up to their beliefs (and avoid hypocrisy). Too bad about the food. To view the full letter, click here.


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