Screw up the dishwashers, save the planet?

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The Department of Energy (DOE) proposed more stringent energy and water efficiency standards for dishwashers Friday, despite the fact that the regulations currently on the books are already causing big problems for consumers. It is all a part of the Biden Administration’s belief that lousier appliances will somehow fight climate change.

So far this year, the Biden DOE has proposed new regulations for stoves, refrigerators, clothes washers, and now dishwashers.  Many more such regulations are on the way such as new proposals for water heaters and ceiling fans, according to the latest Unified Agenda which lists the upcoming regulatory activities for DOE and other agencies. This regulatory onslaught adds to rulemakings launched in 2022 for air conditioners,  furnaces, light bulbs, and others.

Overall, if it plugs in or fires up around the house, there’s a very good chance DOE or another agency is going after it. In some cases, it is a multi-agency attack, such as for gas stoves where both DOE and the Consumer Product Safety Commission are pursuing restrictions.

For every one of these rulemakings, the agency’s asserted “need to confront the global climate crisis,” is a major part of the rationale, replete with lengthy calculations of the claimed greenhouse gas emissions reductions attributable to each. But consumers aren’t likely to like any of it, as these standards often raise the up-front cost of appliances more than is likely to be earned back in the form of lower utility bills. They also have a track record for diminishing appliance quality and choice.

The dishwasher proposal may be the most anti-consumer of them all. As a result of the existing efficiency requirements, it now takes more than two hours to clean a load of dishes, up from only one hour for most pre-standards models. Not only is this bad policy for consumers, it also violates the statute under which DOE derives its appliance standard-setting authority, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 (EPCA). EPCA explicitly forbids the agency from pursuing efficiency at the expense of appliance performance, choice, and features.  In other words, consumers come first.

To its credit, the Trump administration DOE responded to a 2018 petition from CEI and initiated a process of promulgating provisions that would once again allow fast dishwashers back on the market. It did so citing evidence that consumers dislike the new dishwashers taking so long to do the job, confirming that faster dishwashers is a “performance-related feature” protected by law. The Biden team rescinded this deregulatory effort – and now threatens to add insult to injury by proposing yet more onerous provisions.

Fortunately, 12 state attorneys general have filed suit in federal court to reinstate the Trump-era efforts. (CEI and FreedomWorks have filed an  Amicus Brief in this case). Yet before this case has even been decided, the Biden DOE has now proposed to make the bad dishwasher regulations even worse.