Obama’s New Appliance Efficiency Mandates—Consumers Better Run For Cover

by Sam Kazman on February 5, 2009 · 5 comments

in Energy, Environment, Nanny State, Regulation

President Obama today announced that he is pressuring the Department of Energy (DoE) to speed up some long-delayed efficiency standards for appliances.  His move is being applauded by environmentalists—no surprise there.  And DoE itself will almost certainly proclaim that the new standards will give us better appliances in the future; they might cost more, but they’ll supposedly save us money in the long run.

Don’t believe it.  Here are some examples of how DoE efficiency mandates have produced, or will produce, fiascoes rather than progress:

  • In 2001, Consumer Reports found that high-efficiency dishwashers equipped with dirt-sensors were actually the least efficient of all dishwasher models.  This means that consumers who purchased them, perhaps in reliance on the government’s Energy Star program, were actually hurt twice-first when they bought the high-priced models, and then each time they ran them.

(By the way, don’t think that Consumer Reports opposes these mandates; it favors them!  But that’s a topic for another day.)

  • Current DoE standards for light bulbs will soon result in a ban on incandescent bulbs, even though many people prefer incandescent bulbs and even though a “Great Lightbulb Exchange” in one town showed no reduction in electricity use when people switched to fluorescents.  (Evidently, folks kept their lights on longer.)

Remember—if higher-efficiency appliances are really better, then we don’t need laws to force them on us.  And if there are such laws, then those appliances are probably lousy.

Perhaps some consumers realize this and will quickly purchase current appliance models before they’re replaced by the “new, improved” versions.  Could this be a White House economic stimulus plan in disguise?


Ray O February 6, 2009 at 9:25 am

I remember back in the early 80's when the government gave rebates for energy efficiency on things such as additions to houses, etc. I had a friend who wanted me to build his "energy efficient" addition, designed by an architect. I told him it wouldn't work, but he had it done anyway. Let's see, oh yea, it didn't work but the government gave him a $6000 tax credit, which was 25% of the cost of the addition. So as you can see, the government will pay for inefficiency.

Mozarker February 6, 2009 at 5:23 pm

Let the free market decide. Every time the government gets involved in trying to make things better for the consumer, they just create another problem. Take ethanol, for instance, it drove the price of corn up and drove a lot of dairy farmers and livestock producers out of business because they could no longer afford feed costs. Tell Congress to keep their hands off the appliances before they muck that up too.

TheLoneCabbage February 7, 2009 at 8:28 am

Or the fact that florescent light bulbs trigger seizures in epileptics. Yay! Let me save the earth while I convulse! At least the gov't will now help to pay for my increased medication.

wife February 9, 2009 at 11:46 am

I LOVE it when people who do not wash clothes or dishes write legislation on how these products should work.

Like legislators, lobbyists or political pundits know even how to put the soap in their dishwashers, what the knobs do on the clothes washer or how to clean a lint trap.

That is what contractors are for.

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