Every day more and more people are switching over from electricity to gas as their primary cooking fuel source. Which is amazing if you consider a hundred and something years ago this would have seemed super strange, that was a time when everyone was touting the advantages of electricity as a safe, reliable and economical energy source.
I'm not here to bash electricity (our SA energy giant does a pretty good job of that for me), but there is merit in pointing out that while it has some pretty good strengths, electricity has some shortcomings too, especially when it comes to space and water heating and even more so when it comes to cooking.
We only have to look carefully at the whole electricity supply chain to understand the insanity that is domestic electrical usage in the modern age. Don't get me wrong, we can't live life without electricity. Electricity is the thing that makes life simple, it delivers energy that you would have to deliver if it was not there. It powers all our electrical gadgets (which are fast becoming electrical companions) and it does a pretty damn good job of it. Such a good job in fact that we use it to power just about everything else we can find to power with it. It's cheap (and not in a scantily dressed street worker way) it's reliable (or at least was until 2008 broke our confidence in supply), it's safe-ish and we understand it well.
So it makes perfect sense then that we would use it whenever we have a energy supply requirement, and that right there is the reason we do silly things with it. We have found something we trust, and human nature dictates that once we trust something we are far more likely to cozy up to it than to anything competing directly with it. It's not a numbers game this, it's an emotional connection. If it were a numbers game we'd easily see that electricity falls short when it comes to heating and cooking. To understand why, we need to go back to the full electricity supply chain and look at it in a little more depth.
In SA we burn coal to heat water. The heated water gives off steam which drive turbines, which are fancy motors that convert mechanical energy into electrical energy. At this point we have electricity, but unfortunately it's right bang in the middle of nowhere, or more specifically next to a coal mine cos we need to burn so much of the stuff that it makes sense to plonk the power plant right there. This means we have to transport the generated electricity looooong distances from the middle of nowhere to, well, everywhere really. A lot of clever tricks and practices are employed to ensure that the least amount of seepage happens, but there is still power loss as the power is transported from nowhere to where you live. Then when these shiny happy new excited little electrons finally do reach their respective destinations – you – what do we do, we redirect them back to an element in a geyser to heat water again. This is not optimal. This is not the best use of power we can achieve.
Inevitably after we have analysed and digested this supply chain we conclude that there has got to be a better way and we start looking at renewable energy source, and long term these are the way to go. The problem, as it pertains to heating and cooking, is that large amount of instantaneous energy are required for shortish periods, renewable technology as it stands today struggles to supply this instant ooomph.
All this analysing brings us back to gas (which should have been our first choice where it not for our loyal relationship with electricity [see above] and our inevitable jump to the far left when our sensibilities are offended [read renewables])
Gas is a remarkably efficient energy source for domestic (and industrial) heating and cooking purposes. It is affordable (price regulated is SA), it is store-able, it is portable, it burns very cleanly, it's safe (COC required for operation is SA), it's readily available (see mzansigas) and it is possible to supply unreal instantaneous ooomph exactly when it is needed.
But when all is said and done, after analysing the facts and consuming the numbers, after we have proven unequivocally [again] that gas is the superior energy source for domestic cooking and heating, the simple fact stands out that the real strengths of cooking on gas are far less fixed in the scientific, the real charm of cooking with gas is almost in the metaphysical realm. A little bit charming, a little bit artsy. Perhaps it's the fact that you can "see" the heat coming from the blue flames rather than radiating from a lifeless metal disc. It could be some deeply embedded aspect of the human psyche that manifests in an undeniable appreciation of flames. Or maybe it's the whole rustic nature of the experience appeals to the senses in a way that cooking with electricity just doesn't. From the simplest two plate hob to the golliaths powering the michelin star kitchens around the world, cooking with gas is an experience that has yet to be topped
maybe it just can't be!