By Tom Ozimek
A coalition of over a dozen industry and consumer groups has issued a scathing criticism of the Biden administration’s proposed regulatory crackdown on dishwashers as part of a sweeping fight against the perceived dangers of climate change.
After first aiming at gas stoves to cut greenhouse gases, the Biden administration has turned its attention to other home appliances, with dishwashers finding their way into the crosshairs.
On May 5, the Department of Energy (DOE) proposed congressionally mandated standards for new dishwashers, claiming the move would reduce consumer costs while cutting the amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere.
The proposed rulemaking (pdf), published in the Federal Register, seeks to impose separate new efficiency standards for power and water usage for standard-size and compact dishwashers during their regular cycles.
As part of the public comment process on the proposal, the coalition of 19 industry and consumer groups led by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) on Tuesday submitted a detailed criticism of the proposal.
The groups urged the Biden administration to withdraw the rule, arguing that existing dishwasher standards are already causing “serious problems” for consumers and that tightening them further would worsen the problems and undercut consumer protections.
“While each of the Biden administration’s recently-proposed appliance measures raises a unique set of risks for consumers, the proposed dishwasher rule at issue here is particularly harmful,” the groups wrote in the submission.
The current energy and water efficiency standards for dishwashers have already caused significant dissatisfaction among consumers due to far longer cycle times, the groups said.
Tightening these measures further by way of the proposed rule would likely worsen the situation but offer minimal additional savings, they argued.
“We believe the proposed rule should be withdrawn and that the Department of Energy (DOE) should shift its focus to addressing the drawbacks caused by its existing dishwasher regulations,” the coalition wrote.
DOE did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the coalition’s criticism of the proposed rule and its request for withdrawal.
The DOE proposal seeks to cut energy use by 27 percent and water use by 34 percent in new conventional household dishwashers made in the United States or imported into the country, starting three years after the publication of the final rule.
This means that the maximum estimated annual energy use for standard-sized dishwashers would be 223 kWh/year, and the maximum per-cycle water consumption would be 3.3 gallons.
Compact dishwasher models would, under the proposed rulemaking, see a 22 percent reduction in power use and an 11 percent lower water usage. Specifically, this would mean that compact dishwasher models made in or imported into the United States would have a maximum annual energy use of 174 kWh/year and maximum water consumption of 3.1 gallons.
If the new rules are adopted within the DOE’s suggested timeframe, they would come into effect in 2027. The agency estimated that the new rules would save consumers nearly $3 billion in utility bills over 30 years.
“This Administration is using all of the tools at our disposal to save Americans money while promoting innovations that will reduce carbon pollution and combat the climate crisis,” Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said in a statement at the time that the proposal was announced in May.
The CEI-led coalition, however, insisted that the proposed rule would not work as promised and would lead to both longer cycle times and reduced dishwasher performance.
“Longer cycle times are not the only problem,” the coalition wrote in its comments to DOE, pointing to reduced performance in terms of reliability, cleaning, and drying.
“Though not well documented, the previous efficiency standards have led to other performance drawbacks. For example, those who repair dishwashers have seen changes in reliability” resulting from DOE’s earlier actions.
“Both the frequency of repairs as well as their cost have risen,” the groups continued.
Cleaning performance has also seen adverse impacts, the coalition stated, noting “more instances of consumers running loads twice to get them sufficiently clean.”
Many models that comply with the DOE’s earlier standard don’t dry dishes fully, they continued, adding that the advantages of using dishwashers over washing by hand would be further undermined by the agency’s new draft rule.
“Dishwasher performance would only be made worse by the proposed rule, which ratchets downs further on the energy and water limits that are the acknowledged source of the problems,” the coalition wrote.
Signatories of the letter to DOE include The Heritage Foundation, Institute for Energy Research, Heartland Institute, American Consumer Institute, Americans for Prosperity, and American First Policy Institute.
Opposition to new dishwasher efficiency standards comes amid the Biden administration’s broader crackdown on home appliances in the name of fighting climate change.
Home Appliance Crackdown
The Biden administration recently announced stringent new rules to reduce the use of coolants used in most air conditioning units and other appliances in the name of fighting global warming, with experts warning it will likely mean Americans will have to pay more to stay cool.
Also, in its quest for greater energy efficiency, the Biden administration has taken aim at natural gas-powered appliances with a February 2023 proposed rule that could effectively take many gas stoves off the market.
That proposal came several weeks after a commissioner with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Richard Trumka Jr., told Bloomberg that a ban on gas stoves was “on the table.”
The CPSC’s chair, Alexander Hoehn-Saric, would later walk back Trumka’s comment by insisting that the agency is “not looking to ban gas stoves,” and Granholm said that the notion of banning gas stoves was “just not true.”
Granholm did acknowledge, however, that the proposal would affect about half of the gas stoves on the market.
Members of the gas appliance industry have criticized the proposal, while some lawmakers have disputed the notion that the proposal isn’t a gas stove ban.
“I don’t know what kind of gas stove you have in your house … and to the gentlelady on the other side of the aisle, she says it’s not a ban [but] according to my figures, 4 percent of current gas stovetops available on the market today meet the rule, which means that 96 percent of them don’t,” Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) said in Tuesday’s Congressional hearing titled “Cancelling Consumer Choice: Examining the Biden Administration’s Regulatory Assault on Americans’ Home Appliances.”
During the hearing, Mr. Perry disputed Biden administration’s claims that the proposed DOE rule shouldn’t be referred to as a gas stove ban.
The Republican lawmaker said that many people on lower incomes wouldn’t be able to afford a new gas stove compliant with the new rules and so would opt for an electric stove.
However, he pointed out that installing one could be costly because of electrical line adaptations, and so the strict new standards would have a disproportionately negative impact on less affluent Americans.