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The Obama administration isn't satisfied giving the American public vast things we don't want — from stimulus packages to bailouts to ObamaCare: It's a small-scale nuisance, too — witness its attempt to redesign home appliances.
In the pipeline are dumb regulations for almost everything that plugs in or fires up in your home.
Just weeks after taking office, the president ordered the Energy Department to speed up the process of issuing harsh new energy-efficiency standards for appliances. Since then, the agency boasts, it "has issued or codified new efficiency standards for more than 20 different products," and still more are on the way.
These regulations are sure to raise the price of appliances — often by more than consumers are ever likely to earn back in the form of energy savings. And some will make the product perform less well.
The administration is meddling with every room in the house:
The basement: New standards are in the works for water heaters and furnaces. For water heaters, the Energy Department estimates price hikes from $67 to $974, depending on size and type.
The bathroom: The same 1992 law that gave us those awful low-flush toilets also restricted the amount of water showerheads could use to 2.5 gallons per minute. Some consumers who disliked the resulting weak trickle opted for models with two or more showerheads, each using the maximum 2.5 gallons. But Team Obama has now eliminated this "loophole" by requiring that the total flow must comply with the limit.
The kitchen: Think remodeling a kitchen is expensive now? Pending regulations target refrigerators, dishwashers, microwaves, ovens and ranges.
For refrigerators (at least), this is a clear case of overkill. The American fridge has already been hit by several rounds of tighter standards, with each new rule saving less energy than the last — but boosting the price and compromising performance and reliability. Even the Energy Department admits that most consumers will lose money on its latest refrigerator regulation.
The laundry room: New standards are on the way for washers and dryers. When the last clothes-washer regulation hit in 2007, Consumer Reportslamented that several ultra-efficient models "left our stain-soaked swatches nearly as dirty as they were before washing" and that "for best results, you'll have to spend $900 or more." The Obama rules will probably mean even worse news.
Any air-conditioned room: Both central air conditioners and window units are scheduled for new regulations. When the Energy Department rolled out its last round of central-AC rules back in January 2001 (one of those last-minute Clinton administration "midnight" regulations), it admitted that many homeowners would never recoup the added up-front costs. The new standards will follow the same "logic" — and thus should make for another lousy deal.
The Obama regulations come on top of all the past ones, including the worst one of all — the Bush-era requirement that will effectively ban incandescent light bulbs starting in 2012.
In nearly every case, consumers who want more efficient appliances — or those compact fluorescent light bulbs — are free to buy them. Energy-use labels tell you everything you need to know to make comparisons. All the federal rules do is is to force the government's preferred choice on everyone.
Government "of the people, by the people, and for the people" is busy enacting a bunch of things the people don't want, including these appliance regulations. Add them to the growing list of Obama (and Bush) measures ripe for repeal.