The Biden administration unveiled environmental regulations Friday targeting multiple popular home and commercial appliances in an action that will impact millions of Americans, but which federal officials said would help curb carbon emissions.
The Department of Energy (DOE) both finalized new energy efficiency standards for residential refrigerators and freezers, and proposed standards for commercial fans and blowers. Overall, the agency said the actions would eliminate 420 million metric tons of “dangerous carbon dioxide emissions” over the next three decades and save households and businesses $5 billion a year on utility bills.
“Today’s announcement is a testament to the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to lowering utility costs for working families, which is helping to simultaneously strengthen energy independence and combat the climate crisis,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement.
“DOE will continue to move quickly in 2024 — together with our industry partners and stakeholders — to update and strengthen outdated energy efficiency standards, which is critical to innovation, more consumer options, and healthier communities,” she continued.
DOE’s standards for refrigerators and freezers will be implemented between 2029 and 2030, and mark the first update to standards impacting those appliances in more than a decade. According to the announcement, the updated standards, which will take less efficient but cheaper models off the market, will in 30 years remove the amount of emissions generated by the combined annual emissions of 12.7 million homes.
And the standards targeting fans and blowers are the first-ever federal regulations targeting those appliances. DOE said that proposal “follows the lead” of efficiency standards established by California and will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 318 million metric tons in the next 30 years.
“Refrigerator standard are much like dishwashers and clothes washers, where there’ve been so many standards over the decades that we’re either at the point of diminishing returns or negative returns,” Ben Lieberman, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told Fox News Digital in an interview Friday. “And there is a tendency for the agency’s own analysis to inflate the benefits.”
“Consumers are perfectly capable of making these decisions on their own, including consumers who want to buy extra efficient refrigerators or other models,” he continued. “What these standards do is they force that choice on everyone, whether it makes sense for them or not. And we know from history that, in some cases, these standards raise the upfront cost more than you’re likely to earn back in the form of energy savings.”
In addition to potentially increasing upfront costs for consumers purchasing new appliances, Lieberman said the new efficiency standards may harm product performance. For example, he said new standards for dishwashers have led to cycles taking as much as twice as long to finish.
According to DOE, meanwhile, the standards mean the administration proposed or finalized a grand total of 30 such regulations in 2023 as part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda and “underscore the administration’s commitment to tackling the climate crisis.” The agency projects that its regulations introduced since early 2021 will provide nearly $1 trillion in consumer savings and curb emissions by 2.5 billion metric tons.
DOE also pledged to continue moving forward with more such regulations in 2024.
Experts, including Lieberman, have repeatedly warned over the last 12 months that the Biden administration’s energy efficiency actions will ultimately harm consumers and drive prices higher since manufacturers will be forced to adopt newer technologies to achieve the standards.
In April, Lieberman led a comment letter alongside more than 15 other consumer organizations, arguing DOE’s efficiency standards for stovetops proposed in February “almost certainly compromise some of the features that gas stove users want, and all for the sake of saving an insignificant amount of energy.” According to the agency’s analysis, those standards would effectively ban half of all available stoves.
In the months after DOE released its proposed stovetop regulations, it proposed regulations in February for clothes washers and refrigerators that it said would reduce emissions by 233 million metric tons; finalized standards for air conditioners in March; proposed regulations cracking down on dishwashers in May; issued a proposal targeting water heaters in July; and proposed standards for furnaces in September.
“They are trying to reshape the place that you live to make it look like the home they would like you to live in,” O.H. Skinner, the Alliance For Consumers’ executive director, told Fox News Digital in October. “They’re really trying to impose what are progressive preferences from places in coastal enclaves and make it so that everyone has to live like that. And that affects you every day.”
“What’s crucial is to understand this administration isn’t just tweaking regulations. They’re doing things that effectively ban whole categories of things that exist on the market,” Skinner continued. “Almost all of these decisions, as you work through it, are influenced by the overall climate agenda and the green agenda and the desire for us to change our lives.”
Environmentalists have long argued in favor of appliance and energy efficiency regulations given their high use of electricity and natural gas. Green energy groups have called for the electrification of homes and businesses, reducing reliance on natural gas and simultaneously replacing current fossil fuel-fired power with alternatives like wind and solar.
According to federal data, the commercial and residential sector accounts for 30% of total end-use carbon emissions in the U.S., the largest share of any sector including industry, transportation and agriculture.
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