When the natural gas industry used the playbook from Big Tobacco — Enlarge (credit: Lew Robertson via Getty Images)
In 1976, beloved chef, cookbook author, and television personality Julia Child returned to WGBH-TV’s studios in Boston for a new cooking show, Julia Child & Company, following her hit series The French Chef. Viewers probably didn’t know that Child’s new and improved kitchen studio, outfitted with gas stoves, was paid for by the American Gas Association.
While this may seem like any corporate sponsorship, we now know it was a part of a calculated campaign by gas industry executives to increase the use of gas stoves across the United States. And stoves weren’t the only objective. The gas industry wanted to grow its residential market, and homes that used gas for cooking were likely also to use it for heat and hot water.
The industry’s efforts went well beyond careful product placement, according to new research from the nonprofit Climate Investigations Center, which analyzes corporate efforts to undermine climate science and slow the ongoing transition away from fossil fuels. As the center’s study and a National Public Radio investigation show, when evidence emerged in the early 1970s about the health effects of indoor nitrogen dioxide exposure from gas stove use, the American Gas Association launched a campaign designed to manufacture doubt about the existing science.
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