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  • Today’s Calamity: Energy Efficiency is Good - Except When It’s Not

    Just as renewable energy can be a good thing if the market can provide it at an affordable rate, products designed for greater energy efficiency is a good thing. But not when the government gets in the way. Federal laws dictating how much energy home appliances are allowed to use have frequently harmed consumers, and the Waxman-Markey bill introduces a host of new ones.

    Improved energy efficiency is a worthwhile goal, but not when Washington tries to mandate it with arbitrary requirements. Consumers who think the resultant energy-efficient appliances will save them money in the long run may be disappointed. These standards almost always raise the purchase price of appliances, in some cases to the point that the extra upfront costs are never recouped in the form of energy savings. For example, the Department of Energy conceded that its most recent air-conditioner standard would be a money loser for many consumers, but went ahead with it anyway.

    Efficiency standards can also adversely affect product performance, features, and reliability. For example, Consumer Reports noted that several high-efficiency clothes washers meeting the latest federal standard “left our-stain soaked swatches nearly as dirty as they were before washing” and suggested that “for best results, you’ll have to spend $900 or more.”


    Some standards also restrict consumer choice. For example, the 2007 energy bill effectively phases out the traditional incandescent light bulb in favor of more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs. Compared to the old-fashioned, but still-popular incandescent lights, compact fluorescent bulbs are more expensive, have a light quality some find inferior, do not fit into certain fixtures, and contain small amounts of mercury, which can be a health and safety concern if the bulbs break. Whether it’s a $1 light bulb or a $1000 washing machine, consumers are clearly better off when they have a choice, not when government steps in and decides what is best.

    The Waxman-Markey proposal contains a host of new standards for everything from household lamps to portable electric spas. The new legislation makes it easier to place more requirements on appliances like air-conditioners that are already subject to stringent regulations. The overall effect would be higher costs, compromised quality, and restricted choice for homeowners with a negligible impact on the environment.

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    Posted in Energy [slideshow_deploy]

    4 Responses to Today’s Calamity: Energy Efficiency is Good - Except When It’s Not

    1. Pingback: » Financial News Update - 09/03/09 NoisyRoom.net: Where liberty dwells, there is my country…

    2. Ed Osann, Washington says:

      Pretty shabby scholarship, Nick. You reach back 2 years to pull a juicy quote from Consumer Reports (a monthly mag), ignoring at least 3 more-recent articles on clothes washers (incl 7/09) that point out several strong performers at reasonable cost and contradict your point that efficiency standards per se reduce performance. Additionally, the 2007 energy bill does not "effectively phase out the traditional incandescent light bulb." It sets efficiency requirements that a new generation of improved incandescents are expected to meet at competative prices. So, instead of harrumphing about reasonable energy efficiency standards, Heritage should welcome the billions of $$ in energy that US consumers and businesses are saving each year with more efficienct refrigerators, air conditioners, lighting equipment, and electric motors. Unfortunately, the marketplace is open to suppliers of cheesey products, whether they are covered by energy efficiency standards or not. So, as always, caveat emptor. But generally speaking, the private sector has responded well to reasonable minimum efficiency standards.

    3. Pingback: Top 10 Government Regulatory Abuses of 2010

    4. Pingback: A Year of Regulatory Abuse: The 10 Worst New Rules of 2010 | Step Down Obama

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