People often think government climate rules target power plant, refineries or automakers. But government regulators also look at controlling products people use everyday in their crusade against global warming. This week’s target: hotel ice makers.
As part of President Obama’s “Climate Action Plan,” the Energy Department tightened its energy efficiency standards for “automatic commercial ice makers,” which include the machines used by hotels, restaurants and convenience stores to make the ice we use everyday. The push was part of a larger DOE effort to fight global warming by tightening energy standards for lamps and other consumer goods.
“As part of President Obama’s climate action plan, the Energy Department set an ambitious goal of finalizing 10 energy efficiency standards this year, and with the new efficiency standards for general service fluorescent lamps and automatic commercial ice makers, we have reached that goal,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.
“The Energy Department is committed to building on this progress, and will continue to develop standards that move the U.S. closer to a low-carbon future,” Moniz said.
Cracking down on ice makers will save Americans $600 million in the next 30 years and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 4 million metric tons, according to the DOE. Combined with the DOE’s new fluorescent lamp standard, energy efficiency rules are projected to save Americans $78 billion through 2080 and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 435 million metric tons.
Using the government’s “social cost of carbon” estimate, DOE says reducing carbon dioxide will result in $360 million in benefits from avoided global warming — even though China plans to emit vastly more carbon emissions than DOE could hope to cut.
The DOE began regulating commercial ice makers in 2005, mandating that ice makers made in 2010 and beyond meet certain energy and water conservation standards. Regulators say that a more stringent standard is needed to fight global warming and increase energy efficiency.
Environmentalists have long urged the Obama administration to increase energy efficiency in appliances and commercial equipment, including ice makers.
“Improving the performance of ice makers and other appliances and equipment is an important part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan goal to capitalize on the potential of energy efficiency standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3 billion metric tons by 2030,” wrote Meg Waltner, an energy efficiency expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“The proposed rule for ice makers adds to the list of proposed and final rules issued already this year… which demonstrate DOE and the administration’s commitment to meeting this goal,” Waltner wrote.
While environmentalists support this rule, it will do little to actually address global warming. In 2012, the U.S. emitted 6.5 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases, mostly carbon dioxide. DOE’s energy efficiency rules would only reduce emissions 435 million metric tons by 2080 — only about 7 percent of what the U.S. emits every year.