Appliance Regulation Bill Approved for Vote by Full Senate

By:  Ann Shibler
Appliance Regulation Bill Approved for Vote by Full Senate

Congress, after limiting light bulb choice, is now moving toward mandating higher energy efficiency in appliances and just about anything that plugs into an electrical outlet. 

Congress, after limiting light bulb choice, is now moving toward mandating higher energy efficiency in appliances and just about anything that plugs into an electrical outlet. The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held hearings on S. 398, a new bill to regulate the energy efficiency of appliances, on March 10. Then, on April 12 that committee ordered the bill "to be reported with an amendment favorably" to the full Senate for an eventual vote.

Senate Bill 398, “To amend the Energy Policy and Conservation Act to improve the energy-efficiency of certain appliances and equipment, and for other purposes,” but entitled the “Implementation of National Consensus Appliance Agreements Act of 2011” is a government intervention in the free market, consumer choices, and manufacturing trends, to the detriment or destruction of some, and the benefit of others.

The bill is being promoted as one that will keep American manufacturers in operation -- even though almost all major brands of small and large appliances, tools, electronics, and HVAC equipment are made outside the U.S.A.  Proponents say it will save jobs, create new jobs and even improve productivity along with reducing greenhouse gas emissions while consumers can pocket huge savings, but they don’t say how, exactly.

In a free market system, consumers’ choices drive the market to the benefit of both consumers and producers, the producers only too happy to develop products that meet and exceed the demands and interests of the consumers. In contrast, your congressmen want government regulations to be the deciding factor, choosing which products will be eliminated from the market on the basis of their efficiency, ensuring that Americans can’t get what they really want, and paying much higher prices for the privilege. They’ve done this before and every time they interfere, the result is higher costs for consumers.

Take the case of the washing machine. The once-popular top-loading machine was an efficient and dependable appliance — until the government got involved. As soon as they issued new energy standards for washers in the early 1990s, prices increased and performance and reliability dropped dramatically, and the front-loading machine became the preferred model only because it used less hot water. This is known in the marketplace as creative destruction.

However when government causes creative destruction, they are choosing the winners and the losers in the market and eliminating choices for consumers.  This forced creative destruction can actually be a transferring of wealth from one to another as it causes economic chaos through the layoffs of workers when production shifts to different companies and countries who are then enriched.

Under the fig leaf of environmental and energy concerns, S. 398’s regulations will affect water heaters, low-flowing toilets and shower heads, hot-food holding cabinets, refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, ovens and microwaves, furnaces and air conditioners, power tools, washers, dryers, pool pumps and heaters, base lamps, video games, water dispensers, spas, outdoor lighting -- they already covered indoor with the phaseout of the incandescent bulb -- for both residential and commercial products. They even want to assess every electric motor, control, pump, compressor, fan and blower for opportunities for better efficiency. (Keep in mind this is not a complete list.) Politicians will receive expanded powers, unfavorably supporting large manufacturers and putting small ones with a lower market share out of business because they can’t compete in a biased market.

The bill is based on the notion that Americans who see and pay monthly electric bills are somehow electricity gluttons incapable of limiting usage or choosing appliances and other items for their homes, so the Nanny State must do it for them. It’s also based on the government’s climate change views associated with the Energy Star program. The consequences of passage will range from higher-priced appliances and products, less freedom to choose, loss of American jobs, and more imports, to increased energy use for some products due to lower performance standards that force repetitive usage, or higher energy costs during production.

In these difficult economic times, it is important that energy costs and appliance costs are not unnecessarily or artificially increased by government regulations. To stop this uninvited and damaging intervention in the marketplace and in your home, get in touch with your Representative and Senators immediately and have them oppose S. 398 and any similar legislation.

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