Critics are sharply denouncing the Biden administration’s ambitious energy efficiency regulations on household appliances, asserting that they will undeniably result in more expensive and less effective products. These stringent regulations, enforced by the Department of Energy (DOE), are at the core of the administration’s climate agenda, with more than 110 actions taken in 2022 alone. However, skeptics argue that these standards are destined to be counterproductive.

According to experts, the regulations, which encompass a wide range of appliances such as water heaters, furnaces, clothes washers, and dishwashers, are imposing an unrealistic level of efficiency that will inevitably compromise the quality of these products. “What these mandates, what these standards, do is enforce a level of efficiency that doesn’t make sense,” says Ben Lieberman, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “And they compromise product quality. We’ve already seen this to an extent with the cost of clothes washer standards.”

Critics also point out that these regulations are not only redundant but are becoming increasingly burdensome for manufacturers. The industry has already made significant strides in enhancing the efficiency of appliances over the years. These relentless regulations, which have been applied multiple times to certain products like clothes washers, are now yielding diminishing or negligible returns, according to Lieberman.

President Biden’s executive order, signed on his first day in office in January 2021, set the stage for the DOE to overhaul existing appliance regulation standards, with a particular emphasis on overturning those set by the previous administration. The DOE wasted no time, initiating the process for more than a dozen energy efficiency rules just a month later, affecting a broad spectrum of appliances.



The administration continued to unveil more rules in 2023, further restricting consumer choices by imposing limits on the types of cooking stoves, ovens, refrigerators, and clothes washers available for purchase. While the DOE claims that these efficiency standards will save consumers billions and reduce pollution, critics argue that such mandates infringe upon individual freedom and the right to make informed choices.

Critics emphasize that manufacturers have already made substantial progress in improving product efficiency, making additional restrictions redundant and costly. They contend that these regulations might actually lead to appliances being less effective, forcing consumers to run additional cycles or even revert to washing dishes and clothes by hand, thereby wasting more energy than before.

Furthermore, a former senior DOE official argues that the purported energy savings from these regulations, which the Biden administration proudly touts, are minimal and often do not justify the higher prices associated with compliant appliances. For instance, DOE data shows that a more energy-efficient clothes washer model costs only $10 less per year to operate compared to a less efficient, but cheaper, model. Critics argue that consumers might willingly pay a bit more each year for a more effective machine.

The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), the leading U.S. trade group representing appliance makers and suppliers, has also issued a stern warning, stating that the DOE’s recent clothes washer regulations would disproportionately affect low-income households by eliminating more affordable appliance options.



According to AHAM, the administration’s regulations targeting seven crucial areas, including cooking, refrigeration, and laundry appliances, will ultimately lead to inferior products. Jill Notini, a spokesperson for AHAM, explains, “The cumulative cost to manufacturers of all the major rules adds up to more than $2.25 billion. And this is really what we believe is just the tipping point of the impact.”

Notini goes on to highlight that, under the proposed rules, clothes washers are expected to cost $150 more than they do today, with consumers saving only about $7 per year. She emphasizes that these savings simply don’t add up, especially during a period of high inflation. The standards, she argues, would force a staggering 98% of top-loading clothes washer products currently being sold off the market within four years.

In addition, critics emphasize that the industry has already made substantial progress in improving efficiency, achieving a 70% increase over the last 20 years while making machines 50% larger on average. While the intention behind these policies is to benefit the environment, critics contend that they are ultimately impractical and may lead consumers to run double cycles to achieve the same performance as current products.

Ben Lieberman, the senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, sums up the critics’ perspective: “Consumers aren’t going to like any of it. These rules are almost always bad for consumers for the simple reason that they restrict consumer choice.” The Biden administration’s aggressive appliance regulations, according to critics, may not deliver the promised benefits and could instead impose higher costs and inconvenience on American households.


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