EDITORIAL: New appliance standards hammer consumers

President Barack Obama wants what’s best for us — regardless of what the American people have to say about it or whether his idea of what’s best for us really is the best thing for us or not.

Per the president’s climate action plan, the Department of Energy is issuing new efficiency standards for several appliances, including refrigerators, dishwashers, air conditioners, lamps, ceiling fans, furnaces and water heaters. New standards for seven appliances already have been finalized, with standards for additional appliances scheduled to be announced by the end of the year. The new rules will affect virtually every home in America.

The Obama administration says the new standards will not only drastically reduce carbon pollution — the Energy Department says the reduction would be the equivalent of taking 44 million cars off the road by 2030 — but they will also stimulate the economy by saving consumers money on their energy bills (to the tune of $49 billion by 2030) that they can spend on other things.

Of course, we’ve heard all of this before. The government is going to impose heavy-handed mandates, but we won’t mind so much because we’re going to save a ton of money. How are those new light bulbs working out? And where are those big Obamacare savings?

Environmental groups and the Energy Department acknowledge that the new appliances will be more expensive for consumers on the front end, but the administration is being a bit too optimistic about how much we’ll save on the back end.

Another new set of efficiency standards will raise the price of appliances, and while well-to-do consumers can generally afford to run right out and buy newer appliances, most people will have to keep using their older, less-efficient appliances. Kathleen Hogan, deputy assistant secretary for energy efficiency, told The Hill the continued use of older appliances — or the use of no appliances — could wind up canceling out the environmental goals of the new rules.

“If you can’t afford a dishwasher, you’re stuck washing your dishes by hand,” she said, “which actually uses more water.”

There will be other unintended consequences. Increased efficiency generally means smaller appliances. If our dishwashers and clothes washers shrink, we’ll have to run them more often. If our refrigerators get smaller, we might have to buy a second one for the garage. Those additional loads and additional appliances will wipe out the energy savings.

Additionally, as the government forces utilities to include more and more renewable power in their portfolios, the overall cost of energy is going up, too. Saving the planet is awfully expensive, it seems.

The government needs to stop imposing costly regulations that manipulate our behavior. Chill out, already.

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