California Dem Congressional Candidate Says He Opposes Gas Stove and Car Bans. He's Touting an Endorsement From Group That's Pushing Them.

George Whitesides embraces endorsement from environmental group that spent half a million dollars lobbying for bans on gas stoves, cars, and trains

George Whitesides (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
May 16, 2024

A California Democratic congressional candidate, who says he opposes bans on gas stoves and cars, is touting support from a powerful environmental group pushing for these same bans.

"So grateful for your support," Democrat George Whitesides, who is trying to flip GOP representative Mike Garcia’s Los Angeles-area seat in a hotly contested race, posted Tuesday about his endorsement from the Natural Resource Defense Council’s (NRDC) political advocacy arm who deemed Whitesides an "environmental champ."

The NRDC Action Fund has prioritized bans on gas appliances and vehicles both nationally and on the state level. The group spent over half a million dollars over the past few years lobbying California regulators and lawmakers on policies that include cracking down not just on gas cars but also freight fleets and trains, and was a driving force behind an electricity bill overhaul that will add a premium for middle-class Californians to subsidize EV drivers. On Monday, the day before the group announced its endorsement, Whitesides’s campaign spokeswoman Emma Harris told the Washington Free Beacon that Whitesides "does not support banning gas stoves or gas-powered cars." She did not respond to a follow up regarding NRDC’s endorsement.

The issue could prove touchy for Whitesides. He is running for a GOP-held seat at a time when electricity rates are soaring due to California’s aggressive crackdowns on fossil fuels and utility company mandates to switch to higher-cost solar and wind energy. Meanwhile, the state has ordered phase-outs, backed by the NRDC, of gas appliances and cars. Public anger over these costs is mounting as nearly one-in-five California households are behind on their electricity bills.

The NRDC told the New York Times in 2021 that the use of gas in buildings would be a major focus. The group has pushed electrification mandates in the San Francisco Bay Area, the states of California and New York, as well as federally—advocating for President Joe Biden’s proposed industry standards for appliances that would have effectively blocked half of all gas stoves from the market and proved so unpopular that Biden drastically curtailed the policy.

Whitesides’s campaign declaration that he opposes bans on gas cars and appliances followed a podcast interview with left-wing writer Molly Jong-Fast in which he appeared to agree with her when she mocked the U.S. House GOP bill to block federal bans on gas appliances.

"You know, they want to make sure that Democrats can’t ban gas stoves," Jong-Fast said, adding that "the idea that this Congress would then run with it as sort of like a tenet of the new Republican Party seems nuts to me."

In response, Whitesides said, "a big part of the reason why I’m running is that I think we need more people who are literate in science and technology in Congress to address these huge challenges we’ve got coming down the road."

In the same podcast, Whitesides praised Biden’s climate agenda as "amazing stuff," for which "we should give them due credit." Biden has modeled much of his climate agenda on California’s aggressive policies, including his targets for cutting carbon emissions and his push for electric freight trucks and EV sales.

Whitesides’s race against Garcia is one of California’s most closely watched contests. The swing district, which was redrawn for 2022, voted for Biden by 36 points in 2020. Republican Garcia won his last race by more than 6 points. Whitesides is holding a slight edge according to the Democrat’s latest internal polling.