Gas and Gaslighting

Click on image for a larger version. BBC News stories detailing gas explosions this autumn: See end of article for links.

Friends, welcome to 2023.

I would have liked to start the year talking about something positive, but I can’t!

Over the Christmas break it struck me just how astonishing it is that we still allow homes to be heated by burning methane gas.

And we even build new homes incorporating this deadly and disgusting technology.

In case you didn’t know:

  • Over 100 people a year in the UK die from carbon monoxide poisoning, mainly arising from poorly-maintained gas-burning equipment.

Click on image for a larger version. Graph showing data from the Office for National Statistics on the number of people killed each year from carbon monoxide poisoning (link).

  • Even when gas-apparatus functions correctly, gas cookers emit toxic fumes into the homes of people who cook with gas. It is likely the highest exposure to mixed oxides of nitrogen (NOX) that you will experience anywhere in the UK is not by a roadside, but in a kitchen.

Click on image for a larger version. While cooking with gas in this US household, NO2 levels rose to almost 300 ppb. This figure is modified from the linked article.

  • And on top of it all, every year gas causes more than 300 explosions in the UK, killing or maiming around 100 people each year.

Click on image for a larger version. There are over 300 fires involving gas and an explosion every year. About 100 of these incidents result in a casualty or a fatality (Data Source).

  • And on top it all again, burning it emits tonnes of carbon dioxide, a gas which is destabilising the climate on which we depend.

So how is it that we tolerate such a technology? Why are we not outraged?


Friends, we are being ‘gaslighted‘ by the Gas Industry.

Gaslighting – as Wikipedia puts it – is a term that:

…”may also be used to describe a person (a “gaslighter”) who presents a false narrative to another group or person, thereby leading them to doubt their perceptions and become misled, disoriented or distressed. Often this is for the gaslighter’s own benefit.

The gas industry – and the media it influences – suggest that the deaths and appalling climate impacts of burning gas are in some way ‘normal’ and ‘acceptable’.

Because we are familiar with gas, they propagate a false narrative that ‘burning gas’ is somehow ‘safe’, ‘natural’, ‘warming’ and ‘friendly’.

To understand how shocking and deceitful this really is, try the following exercises:

  • Imagine that Wind Turbines killed more than 100 people a year.
  • Imagine that Heat Pumps killed more than 100 people a year.
  • Imagine that Solar Panels killed more than 100 people a year.

Do you think there would be media outrage? Of course there would! But with gas – these consequences are literally just ignored.

The Reality

The reality is this: gas is a filthy polluting technology and burning gas damages our climate, our health, and kills over 100 people a year in the UK alone, as well causing 300 explosive fires per year.

I urge you not to be misled into thinking that gas is anything other than a toxic mistake. If you can, I urge to eliminate gas appliances from your life.

BBC News Story Links



12 Responses to “Gas and Gaslighting”

  1. Paul Rudman Says:

    This is all true, but the reason we tolerate the problems of using gas is that electricity is 3.4 times the cost of gas. As someone who has to heat his flat by electricity, and has nowhere to store a vacuum cleaner, let alone a hear pump, I continue to dream of gas central heating.

    • protonsforbreakfast Says:

      Paul, Good Morning. First of all, I appreciate exactly the point you make. Heating with electricity directly is expensive. But this cost ratio is not set in stone. It is at least in part artificial.

      Even at a cost ratio of 3.4 the running costs of a heat pump would be lower than using gas. In a small space I would suggest using an air-to-air heat pump aka air conditioning. The indoor units mount over a doorway using un-utilised space, and the outdoor units can go on a wall or a roof. Search for “mini-split air conditioning” units: for two indoor fan-coil units they could be cheaper than a boiler. And they will keep you cool in summer!

      All the best


  2. Marcin Says:

    Hi Michael. This really is gaslighting with deadly consequences.

    Some time ago I wanted to check what is the mortality from CO poisoning in EU countries with peer review literature. I was shocked seeing reports of some 600ish victims in Germany/annum. Some large portion of this must be from using domestic gas for heating/cooking. The shocking thing is that, otherwise well educated Germans decided to close well working nuclear power plants (0 deaths/annum, and I think there is not one person injured by spent fuel there to in history of NPP). What fear and radiophobia does to people, while we are supposedly in climate emergency.

    With cheap, clean, reliable power supply the use of heat pumps and electricity for cooking doesn’t require special laws, governmental support and regulations. It is obvious and easy choice. Interestingly there is much less CO poisoning in France, powered by Uranium, not methane.

    • protonsforbreakfast Says:

      Marcin, Good Morning. Wow! 600 deaths per year: that is truly shocking. And the contrast with mortality from nuclear power is striking. Thanks. Michael

  3. StJohn Smith Says:

    Great to express your outrage about gas on many fronts, it’s a criminal enterprise. Thanks for expressing so clearly. Gives your readers more reasons to electrify (wherever possible!) in 2023. HNY Michael!

  4. Chas Warlow Says:

    Shocking stuff – I thought I knew something about NOx air pollution but this is new to me. And I’m going to steal your use of “gaslighting” wherever applicable. Thanks for your posts, Michael, and a Happy New Year to you and yours.

  5. Dick Morris Says:

    Are you able to comment on how successful this idea might be.?

    The article makes it look interesting.

    French startup unveils new residential thermo-acoustic heat pumpEquium has developed a new thermo-acoustic heat pump core that reportedly produces 3 kW to 4 kW of heat for every kilowatt of power it consumes. It says the refrigerant-free device could generate domestic hot water at temperatures of up to 80 C.



    • protonsforbreakfast Says:

      Dick Morris, Good Morning.

      I don’t know anything about this particular product, but thermo-acoustic heat pumps and compressors are a real technology with some particular advantages.

      As the article says, the compression cycle is driven by a loudspeaker with the level of compression altered by changing the frequency or amplitude of the speaker. So this could indeed be helpful for a heat pump in adjusting its power to match requirements.

      The part it doesn’t mention is a carefully designed horn or cavity that focuses the sound wave to extraordinarily high intensities. In normal sound waves, the pressure oscillations that we hear are accompanied by tiny temperature oscillations – typically less than 0.001 °C. To get meaningful temperature and pressure oscillations, sound intensities around 100,000 times louder than normal sounds are required. This compression takes place in a relatively small volume and there is generally very little noise emitted outside the container.

      As the wikipedia article below mentions, they have few moving parts and there is no need to seal rotating shafts – a key point for failures in conventional rotating compressors.

      It’s hard to know if a particular product will succeed – it depends on so many things. But even if it operates better, I wouldn’t expect it to be particularly cheaper than a conventional heat pump. A big fraction of the cost is associated with the heat exchangers and ancillary equipment and services that make the device practical.

      All the best


  6. Bob Pugh Says:

    Hi Michael,
    I’ve just put on my devils advocate robes.
    53% of fires in the home are attributed to electrical causes and the death and injury toll is grim. There are about 300 fires involving gas in your figures but there are about 5000 fires with electrical causes, and probably some of the ones “involving gas” were started electrically.
    I’m actually quite suprised the gas figures are as low as they are, enegy in whatever form bites, I’m not advocating banning electricity in homes due to the carnage it can cause.


    • protonsforbreakfast Says:

      Bob, Good Evening. I actually thought about publishing these figures – and figures on deaths – from electrical causes, but the article was actually too long already. I accept everything you say.

      The main point is that Electricity and Gas are not equivalent. It is perfectly possible to have a civilised home with no gas. In contrast, a civilised home without electricity is almost inconceivable.

      So I wrote the article to point out just how appalling gas is, and that is why I didn’t mention the electrical safety issues. In the stats I looked up, deaths from electrocution were low – approximately 30 per year if I recall correctly – but I did not look at deaths from electrical fires.

      All the best


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