President Joe Biden likely had his fingers crossed last month while promising Americans that the administration “does not support” gas stove bans. That’s because this month, his Department of Energy released a proposed rule updating energy efficiency standards with new costly and stringent standards for conventional cooking products—including gas stoves—that would make them unaffordable for many.
This new rule comes after the media hailstorm in January when a Consumer Safety Product Commission member suggested that the commission would be pursuing a nationwide ban on gas stoves, citing potential health risks as the justification for the move. The White House was quick to respond during a press briefing shortly after, assuring us that the administration was not supportive of such a ban.
Yet, the administration’s actions in its war on conventional fuels belie such claims. This includes proposing unrealistic energy efficiency standards that would alter what products Americans can purchase.
The proposed Energy Department standards are yet another way the administration would achieve its ultimate goal of eliminating conventional fuels. This effort to change consumer demand and put an end to natural gas stoves is already playing out in states and localities across the country.
Through the use of regulations and extremely stringent energy efficiency standards that federal agencies create, the administration can slowly and methodically eliminate gas stoves from the market because these standards make it more difficult and more expensive for companies to comply and consumers to buy—all without congressional hearings or a new law.
Over 90% of gas stove models on the market today would not meet the new standards, and manufacturers would therefore be required to substantially redesign their products.
The proposal actually estimates that manufacturers will have to spend over $180 million to comply with the new regulations.
In addition to placing undue burden on manufacturers, the Energy Department mandates are essentially throwing out consumer choice and opting for a “government-knows-best” approach. These standards make all kinds of presumptions about our preferences in order to justify them, including that Americans undervalue efficiency.
However, research shows that consumers care about energy efficiency—even before the government tells them to. According to a 2019 Environmental Protection Agency survey on the national awareness of Energy Star, which is a voluntary program for identifying energy-efficient products and practices, over 50% of participants knowingly purchased an Energy Star-labeled appliance.
It also indicates that nearly 50% of participants did not buy Energy Star-labeled appliances. This isn’t some mistake on the part of consumers. These are freely made choices based on many other considerations, because consumers care about a lot of other factors, too—such as features, safety, convenience, and durability—when choosing what appliances to put in their homes.
So, by regulating based on one or two characteristics, and by prioritizing energy efficiency over other compelling factors, the government is stifling the free market, hindering broader innovation, and discouraging the production of products that consumers actually want to buy.
Instead of this meddling, bureaucrats should step aside and allow companies to respond to those preferences by developing products that meet their customers’ needs.
The Energy Department touts these standards as a way for Americans to save money and reduce energy use. But according to the proposed rule, the standards would raise upfront appliance costs by about $30 million per year.
Those upfront costs minus the supposed savings from greater efficiency amount to total life-cycle savings—which considers expenses like maintenance costs, repair costs, and all the markups in the distribution chain—of merely $22 over the course of a gas range’s lifetime, or about $1.50 per year. It would also amount to just over a 3% reduction in energy use during the same period.
That’s a lot of intrusive and costly regulation for very minimal gain.
Other issues exist with the proposed mandates, including that the Department of Energy attempts to offset costs by quantifying the climate and health-related benefits of the proposed mandates using the social cost of carbon calculation. However, as Heritage Foundation research has pointed out, the carbon calculation is an incredibly unreliable metric and can be easily manipulated to justify burdensome regulation. (The Daily Signal is the news and commentary outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
These proposed standards also reflect a complete disregard for the current economic pain Americans are incurring. Inflation is up over 6% over the past year, and with energy prices up over 8%, the last thing Americans need is more policies predicated on “green” fallacies.
Congress and the administration should be pursuing policies that respect consumer choice, allow Americans access to America’s vast resources of oil and natural gas, and allow for economic growth rather than try to stifle it.
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