CEI leads coalition opposing crazy regulatory crackdown on dishwashers

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The American public remains angry over federal meddling in gas stoves – for good reason, given that not one but two Biden administration regulatory agencies continue to target them. Homeowners should be equally enraged over a host of other foolish assaults on appliances, all being done in the name of addressing climate change. On July 18, CEI submitted a coalition regulatory comment to the Department of Energy (DOE) regarding perhaps the worst of them: the proposed new restrictions on dishwashers.

Dishwashers may already be the single most overregulated appliance (though some would say washing machines deserve that dubious distinction), yet DOE now wants to again ratchet down the allowable levels of energy and water use. Bureaucrats have already done this four times. The proposed rule would be the fifth water restriction.

Previous limits have proven very annoying and inconvenient, most notably by increasing the time it takes to clean a load of dishes from about one hour in pre-standards models to two or more today. In the agency’s own words, “[t]o help compensate for the negative impact on cleaning performance associated with decreasing water use and water temperature, manufacturers will typically increase the cycle time.” The proposed rule would further exacerbate matters.

Cleaning performance has also suffered. Although not as well documented as the increased cycle times, many consumers complain about having to rinse dishes before or after running them in the dishwasher in order to get them sufficiently clean, or running the machine twice. Beyond the extra annoyance, having to rewash dishes undercuts the energy and water-savings rationale behind the rules.

Nor is there much upside to justify the downside of lousier dishwashers. After four rounds of successively more stringent energy and water use limits for dishwashers, there simply isn’t much more to be saved. By the agency’s own analysis, the proposed rule would save consumers $17 over the life of a standard dishwasher, which it estimates at 15.2 years. That works out to $1.12 per year. Against this miniscule benefit is the very real risk of greatly diminished performance and convenience for consumers.

The climate change benefits are even more laughable. According to estimates from Dr. Kevin Dayaratna of the Heritage Foundation, the agency’s estimated reductions in greenhouse gases from the rule would prevent 0.0003°C warming by 2050.

Instead of a making things worse by cranking out another round of restrictions, DOE should be looking for ways to fix the problems with existing dishwasher rules. In 2018, CEI petitioned DOE to do just that, and the Trump DOE granted the petition and began the process of devising a new standard achievable by one-hour dishwashers. Unfortunately, the Biden DOE shut down this effort, but 13 state attorneys general are fighting back by suing the agency in federal court. CEI joined FreedomWorks in submitting an amicus brief documenting both the longer cycle times and the consumer dissatisfaction with them.

Like so many bad regulations these days, the dishwasher rule as well as similar ones for furnaces, refrigerators, washing machines, room air conditioners, and of course stoves, are justified in part by hypothetical climate change benefits. In DOE’s words, micromanaging appliances is needed “to confront the global climate crisis.” Yet homeowners, not the planet, are likely to get hot when they learn what is being done to them.