Skyrocketing inflation, empty store shelves, rising crime and endless Covid restrictions have been grabbing headlines, but lesser-noticed regulatory mischief from the Biden administration may prove just as bad. The president’s bureaucrats are working on enough annoying regulations to affect every room in your house:
• The kitchen. The Trump administration took steps to fix the Energy Department’s efficiency standards for dishwashers that had the unintended consequence of increasing the time to clean a load of dishes from an hour or less in older models to well over two in new ones. But now the Biden DOE is in the process of reinstating these time-wasting and unpopular rules.
• The bathroom. In one of several agency measures that limit freedom of choice, the DOE has tightened water-use limits for certain types of showers. In addition, for those who prefer incandescent light bulbs surrounding their bathroom mirror (or anywhere else), the DOE is targeting these bulbs with energy-efficiency standards likely to boost their price to $7 each, leaving LEDs as the only viable option.
• The laundry room. Washing machines have been hit with multiple rounds of energy and water-efficiency regulations that have compromised performance and even forced some owners to buy and use special products to eliminate the stink that accumulates in the new models. Compliant dryers, like the new dishwashers, take longer to do the job. But rather than consider consumer-friendly improvements to existing standards, the Biden DOE is working to make them more stringent.
• The basement. Your next new furnace may be significantly more expensive, thanks to regulatory changes percolating through the Biden DOE bureaucracy. Furnaces are currently available in natural-gas or electric versions, but the DOE is all-in on the war against gas, which environmentalists hate because it’s a fossil fuel and thus a contributor to climate change. The agency has initiated steps toward new efficiency regulations that would skew the market toward electric versions, a costlier option.
Note also that the war on natural gas could also affect choice in other appliances that come in both gas and electric versions, such as water heaters, clothes dryers and even stoves. Many cooks swear by the superiority of gas over electric cooking, but the Biden administration wants to electrify everything. By one estimate, a forced switch away from natural gas would cost the average household $750 to $910 annually in higher energy bills.
• Any air-conditioned room. The regulators may all work in nicely air-conditioned federal buildings, but that hasn’t stopped them from targeting everyone else’s air conditioner. The Environmental Protection Agency, under authority granted by Congress in 2020, just rolled out tough new quotas on several refrigerants blamed as contributors to climate change. The price for the one used in most home air conditioners has already quadrupled, so don’t be surprised if your next repair bill is hundreds of dollars higher than you expected.
• The garage. Your car’s there. Need I say more?
Anyone thinking that the feds want to regulate everything but the kitchen sink would be wrong. They are also reviewing kitchen sinks. Specifically, the DOE is reconsidering the method for testing compliance with water-use limits for faucets, and a change could result in tighter restrictions, with some currently available models declared illegal.
With or without government meddling, any homeowner who wants environmentally friendly appliances is always free to choose them. So why force the politically correct option on everyone? Part of it is the self-interest of the Washington swamp: Plenty of bureaucrats inside the government as well as activists and lobbyists outside it make a nice living from an endless regulatory process. And while appliance manufacturers occasionally oppose new regulations, they often welcome them as potential money makers. Add to that the Biden administration’s obsession with cracking down on anything that uses energy, in the name of fighting climate change, and you have an all-out assault on Americans where they live.
Mr. Lieberman is a senior fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute. He was a staff member on House Energy and Commerce Committee, where he worked on home appliance regulations.
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