Biden Cracks Down on Gas Stoves—and Much More

From a Wall Street Journal column by Ben Lieberman headlined “Biden Cracks Down on Gas Stoves—and Much More”:

Consumer Product Safety Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. fired a shot heard ’round America in January when he informed the public of his agency’s plans for natural-gas stoves. “This is a hidden hazard,” Mr. Trumka said in an interview with Bloomberg News. “Any option is on the table. Products that can’t be made safe can be banned.”

The comment sparked a strong consumer backlash, forcing the Biden administration to deny that its regulators were doing such a thing. But they most certainly were and still are. The gas-stove kerfuffle is merely one piece in a larger campaign against consumer appliances, all in the service of President Biden’s climate-change agenda. Let’s review the items under federal scrutiny:

• Lighting. Beginning in July, commercial retailers will no longer be able to sell incandescent light bulbs without incurring a significant penalty, thanks to an onerous Energy Department efficiency regulation. Last summer the Biden administration reversed a Trump-era reprieve for the old-fashioned bulbs, adjusting the appliance’s lumens-per-watt threshold beyond what the incandescent technology can meet. As a result, newer LED bulbs will soon be the only game in town. While LEDs are improving, they cost more than incandescent bulbs, don’t work well with most dimmers, and cast a light that some consumers consider unpleasant.

• Furnaces. Like stoves, furnaces commit the sin of sometimes running on natural gas. Though ostensibly a fuel-neutral efficiency standard, the Energy Department’s furnace regulation disproportionately burdens gas models relative to electric ones. “The proposed furnace rule has at least as much to do with the Biden administration’s war on natural gas [as] it does with saving energy,” says Mark Krebs, a natural-gas industry consultant, in an interview. The agency is moving ahead with this proposal despite its own analysis that natural gas is less than one-third as expensive as electricity on a per unit energy basis. The final rule could be out soon, and the only gas furnaces likely to survive will be more expensive and harder to install in millions of homes, especially older and space-constrained ones.

• Washing machines. The Energy Department has ratcheted down the allowable levels of energy and water use so many times that it almost seemed improbable it would do so again. Yet that’s exactly what the agency is proposing. The current standards have led to complaints from consumers that washers don’t sufficiently clean clothes and often accumulate mold. “Costly repairs have become much more frequent because of these regulations,” says Mike Mannino, an appliance-repair technician from central Florida, who expects the proposed rule to make matters worse.

• Dishwashers. In an effort to keep pace with its washing-machine crusade, the Energy Department last Friday proposed more stringent energy- and water-efficiency requirements for dishwashers—even though the current regulations are already causing problems for consumers. It now takes at least two hours to do a load of dishes, twice as long as it did in pre-standards models. The department acknowledged several years ago that its regulations lead to consumer dissatisfaction, writing in a 2016 document: “To 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 newly proposed rule—which among other things limits appliances to 3.3 gallons per cycle, down from the current limit of 5 gallons—may make dishwashers worse.

• Air conditioners. A new Energy Department efficiency standard for central air conditioners took effect on Jan. 1 and, according to several installers, has raised the cost of a new system by up to $1,000. That’s a painful regulatory boost for any appliance, but especially one like air conditioning, which is a proven life-saver. Getting in on the fun, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed its own ban on the most affordable remaining air-conditioner models on grounds that they are insufficiently climate-friendly. Expect a further jump in prices when this new rule likely takes effect in 2025.

Let’s turn back to Mr. Trumka’s Consumer Product Safety Commission. Despite the administration’s repeated claims to the contrary, the commission is moving ahead with its information-gathering process on the risks of gas stoves. The public-comment period, which is typically the first step toward restrictions, ended Monday. To make matters worse, Energy Department regulators have proposed first-ever efficiency standards for residential stoves, motivated in part by the agency’s “need to confront the global climate crisis.” Not surprisingly, regulators are much tougher on gas models than the electric ones environmental activists favor.

Appliance buyers who prefer the supposedly climate-friendlier versions are always free to choose them—with or without federal regulations. But the Biden administration is intent on foisting the green choice on all of us, whether we like it or not. Most won’t.

Ben Lieberman is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

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