It was an amazing media 180. Just days after a wave of stories about the threat to asthmatic children from natural gas stoves and the deliberations underway at the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to restrict or ban them, came a second wave of coverage insisting the Biden administration wasn’t targeting gas stoves and blaming Republicans for scare tactics.
In between, of course, was a powerful public backlash against the idea of Washington micromanaging our kitchens in this manner. But the threat to gas stoves is very real and is far from the only regulatory attack on home appliances. (RELATED: DEROY MURDOCK: A Modest Proposal On Where Democrat Tyrants Can Stick Their Gas Stove Bans)
If only it were just stoves, and just CPSC. In reality, Biden’s regulators across several agencies are pursuing costly and intrusive red tape for a lot of things that fire up or plug in around the house, and all in the name of fighting climate change.
The war on gas stoves is part of the larger climate-inspired war on natural gas use in general. Natural gas is a fossil fuel, thus climate activists in and out of the administration want to end its residential use in favor of electrifying everything. Furnaces are another home appliance that, like stoves, come in both natural gas and electric versions.
A proposed Department of Energy (DOE) efficiency standard for gas furnaces quite arguably has less to do with efficiency and more to do with saddling natural gas versions with disadvantages relative to electric. A not-yet-released proposed rule for water heaters may also try to tilt the balance away from gas and towards electric.
Much as public health was CPSC’s ostensible reason for pursuing what really was climate policy on stoves — it was acting on a handful of very recent studies raising alarms while ignoring others that found no health threat from gas stoves — energy efficiency is just the stated reason for DOE pursuing climate aims by targeting gas appliances.
And incidentally, DOE has also proposed a new efficiency standard for stoves. It bears keeping an eye on this rule making to ensure that it is fuel neutral. After all, the agency has declared climate change its top priority.
Even non-natural gas appliances are under the gun. The Environmental Protection Agency seems to hate air conditioners — other than the ones that cool the agency’s massive offices on hot DC summer days. Its latest proposed rule for residential systems would raise the cost of new home air conditioners by requiring that only climate-friendly refrigerants be used in them.
Note also that the Biden administration has already dealt the regulatory death blow to incandescent light bulbs, and did so claiming climate change benefits. That one is too late to reverse, but others can still be stopped or at least made less bad.
As we saw with stoves, homeowners want to make appliance choices for themselves rather than have them made in Washington. And they certainly don’t like paying more for appliances, both the up-front purchase price and operating costs — even DOE is on record that gas is considerably cheaper than electricity on a per unit energy basis.
Let’s hope we see more consumer backlashes, administration reversals and media flip flops like we just had on gas stoves as these and other equally-questionable appliance measures make their way through the federal bureaucracy.
Ben Lieberman is a senior fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
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