2023 began with federal regulators targeting gas stoves, but we have since seen a host of other proposals going after washing machines, refrigerators, dishwashers, ceiling fans, water heaters, and others. They are all part of the Biden administration’s prioritization of the climate change agenda over the interests of consumers. Each runs the risk of boosting appliance prices, limiting choice, and compromising performance. And cumulatively, they add up to substantial headaches for homeowners that will only grow in the years ahead.
The proposed new Department of Energy (DOE) efficiency regulation for dishwashers may be the worst of the lot, since dishwashers are already badly overregulated by the agency. Four rounds of successively tighter energy and water use limits have increased the time it takes to clean a load of dishes from about an hour in older models to more than two in federally-compliant ones. Even DOE admitted that its past rules have caused this problem. In its words, “[t]o help compensate for the negative impact on cleaning performance associated with decreasing water use and water temperature, manufacturers will typically increase the cycle time.” Cleaning performance has also been compromised. And now, the agency seeks to tighten the screws yet again.
Incidentally, DOE estimates that its proposed rule would save dishwasher owners a paltry $1.12 per year on their utility bills. But if it makes you feel any better about it, the agency also claims the measure will help address “the need to confront the global climate crisis.”
DOE’s proposed water heaters rule, like the one for stoves and a 2022 furnace proposal, stands out as being particularly hard on consumer choice. The reason is that these appliances come in both natural gas and electric versions, but the climate activists in the administration see natural gas as a hated fossil fuel and are using these regulations to skew the market towards electric. It’s a profoundly anti-consumer thing to do, especially given that DOE estimates that natural gas costs less than a third that of electricity on a per unit energy basis. Nonetheless, the climate change-inspired push to wean homeowners off natural gas is well underway, and the water heater proposal is a part of it.
Air conditioner regulations also deserve a dishonorable mention for the reason that they are targeted not only by DOE but also the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The one-two regulatory punch from these agencies is impacting both the cost of repairing existing central air conditioning systems as well as the price tag for a new unit. Things could get really bad next summer when tougher quotas take effect on the refrigerants needed to service most existing home air conditioners. The reason for the costly crackdown on these refrigerants, if you were wondering, is that they are blamed for contributing to climate change.
Keep in mind that none of these restrictions would ever help consumers. Anyone who wants to spend extra for an ultra-efficient dishwasher and doesn’t mind how long it takes to get the job done is always free to make that choice, with or without a new regulation. Similarly, homeowners who really believe that replacing their natural gas water heater with an electric one will help save the planet don’t have to wait for the government to impose new restrictions. The only thing these regulations do is force the supposedly climate-friendly choice on everyone, whether they like it or not. Of course, most won’t.
The Biden appliance agenda isn’t just an assault on homeowners, it’s also an assault on our freedoms.
Ben Lieberman is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.
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