The Obama administration’s seemingly never-ending wave of energy efficiency regulations for everyday household appliances don’t seem to be working very well, according to congressional testimony.
Energy Department regulators have or plan to impose 23 different energy efficiency regulations for household appliances by 2018, and already the home appliance industry and policy experts find these rules just make appliances cost more and perform worse.
“DOE has never looked back to see what the energy savings actually were or if consumers actually ever benefited from spending more money,” Stephen Yurek, the president of the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute, told Congress Friday.
“Although energy efficiency standards are often billed as having substantial environmental benefits, these benefits are relatively small and typically are not sufficient to outweigh the costs to consumers of the standards,” echoed Sophie Miller, a senior policy analyst at The George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center.
President Barack Obama has issued more energy standards for household appliances than any previous administration, all in the name of fighting global warming. DOE says such standards for everyday products, like refrigerators and air conditioners, will save consumers money and help the environment.
But House Republicans brought in several witnesses who disagree with DOE’s claims. One witness even remarked how DOE appliance regulations were making dishwashers less effective at cleaning dishes.
The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) conducted a massive consumer testing effort on how DOE dishwasher regulations would impact the product’s ability to remove soils and grease. DOE rules made dishwashers way worse.
AHAM then surveyed consumers who tested such dishwashers, many of whom said “the dishes were ‘yucky,’ ‘unsanitary,’ ‘unappetizing,’ ‘filthy,’ and ‘nasty,’”Joseph McGuire, AHAM’s president, said in his prepared testimony.
“Not one person would serve family or friends from the dishwasher at the proposed levels,” he said. “Moreover … consumers are likely to pre-rinse dishes, which increases water use.”
The House hearing is the latest effort by Republicans to highlight the the huge costs imposed by DOE regulations. Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn went after DOE’s ceiling fan and furnace regulations in 2015, noting how the latter would add thousands to the upfront costs consumers pay to heat their homes.
“This is one of those regulations that is too expensive to afford. The cost on this is astronomical,” she said last year. “Even DOE itself says the cost to the American consumer is $12 billion to install these furnaces.”
For many products, however, experts warned DOE rules were only making them more expensive, which encourages people to use their older appliances longer than they usually would.
“When new products and equipment cost more than consumers can afford, they find alternatives, some of which compromise their comfort and safety, while saving less energy or none at all or in some cases using more energy,” Yurek said.
In some cases, DOE has issued so many efficiency regulations they admit the energy savings are minimal to nonexistent. DOE has even said its rules would be particularly hard on the poor and small businesses.
Yurek noted DOE estimated for its latest commercial refrigeration rule “that roughly half of end users (convenience stores, supermarkets, delis, bars, and restaurants) would actually lose money if the standard were implemented, and yet it went ahead anyway.”
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