Viking not dependent on gas – McComb Enterprise Journal

When I read about the blow-up over gas stoves, my first thought was how the folks at Viking Range might feel about the controversy.

Viking, the Greenwood-grown company that pioneered the niche category of commercial-style gas ranges for the home, is one of this community’s largest and most prestigious employers.

I was curious how devastating it might be for Viking if the manufacturing of gas appliances was banned in the U.S., even though that seems currently improbable. So I asked.

Tim Tyler, the company’s director of marketing, took a few minutes away from what is a traditionally hectic time for the manufacturer to share some thoughts in an email.

He seemed pretty calm about the recent news coverage.

First off, he said, the debate about the safety of gas appliances and their impact on the environment is nothing new. Viking has been following the conversation closely for at least a decade.

The most recent spike in the topic was fueled by published comments from a member of the Consumer Product Safety Commission that “any option is on the table” when it comes to regulating gas stoves. That same commissioner,  Richard Trumpka Jr., later clarified his statement that he was only talking about regulations on new stoves. The chairman of the commission went even further to say, in so many words, that Trumpka was only speaking for himself and that the commission as a whole had no plans to ban the gas-fueled kitchen appliances, whether new or existing.

In this age of instant communication and vilification, though, the word that this was mostly a non-story could not catch up with those who blew it out of proportion, largely for political purposes.

Several Republicans in Congress claimed President Biden — often accused of being smitten with fossil-fuel-hating environmentalists — was planning to ban gas stoves nationwide. Of course, they failed to note that the Consumer Product Safety Commission is an independent agency that does not fall under the president’s control. No use letting facts get in the way of an incendiary tweet that could energize your political base.

The language in defense of gas stoves was almost identical to what some of these same conservatives say about guns. “If the maniacs in the White House come for my stove, they can pry it from my cold dead hands,” a Texas congressman fumed on Twitter.

Still, it would not be surprising over time if gas appliances fall out of favor, whether by government action or changing public tastes. Although some cooks swear by their gas stoves, other consumers worry about the potential health risks, whether it come from the minute pollutants that burning natural gas produces or from carbon monoxide poisoning should an unlit stove be left on all night.

How big a risk gas stoves pose is debatable, however. Much of the most damning research has been conducted by scientists with a preconceived bias. Others say, however, that it’s unclear as to how much exposure to harmful byproducts people are really getting from homes with gas appliances, or whether better kitchen ventilation is all that is needed to reduce whatever exposure there is to an inconsequential level.

However this debate is resolved, Tyler indicates that Viking Range and its parent company, Middleby, are well-positioned to pivot with it.

The companies, he wrote, “have long been well-prepared for a market shift with industry-leading induction technology and a diverse range of electric cooking options.”

Induction cooking is the latest rage, and some predict it will eventually become the dominant cooking platform because of its energy-efficiency. As Tyler explains, “Induction cooking uses electric currents to directly heat pots and pans through magnetic induction. Instead of using thermal conduction (a gas or electric element transferring heat from a burner to a pot or pan), induction heats the cooking vessel itself almost instantly.”

I couldn’t get Tyler to share with me what portion of Viking’s sales are gas appliances. He said Middleby doesn’t publicly break out sales by brand or product. So, if gas ranges were to suddenly go away tomorrow, I don’t know how big a shock to the manufacturer’s system it would be.

The impression I get from Tyler is that Viking’s leadership is forward-looking enough that there are already plans in place to move production in whatever direction the market or government dictate.

“The bottom line,” Tyler wrote, “is that I feel Viking is the best we’ve ever been, and we continue to be the leader in electric, induction and gas cooking in the ultra-premium appliance market. We’re proud to be a part of this community and continue to invest and innovate.”

That should reassure anyone who, like me, was wondering.

– Contact Tim Kalich at 662-581-7243 or tkalich@gwcommonwealth.com.


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