Biden Administration Bureaucrats on the Appliance Warpath

by | Jan 12, 2024 | POLITICS

The Biden administration is not just tweaking regulations, it is effectively banning whole categories of appliances that are sold on the market to advance the President’s climate agenda.

The Biden administration recently unveiled regulations targeting multiple home and commercial appliances, which will impact the pocketbooks and comfort of millions of Americans. Biden’s Department of Energy (DOE) finalized new energy efficiency standards for residential refrigerators and freezers and proposed standards for commercial fans and blowers. DOE’s standards for refrigerators and freezers will be implemented between 2029 and 2030, and take less efficient and less expensive models off the market, limiting consumer choice. The standards for fans and blowers are the first federal regulations targeting those appliances. According to DOE, the proposed standards “follows the lead” of efficiency standards established by California—a state whose regulations and standards the Biden administration likes to imitate.

The Biden administration tends to inflate the benefits of its analyses by using assumptions that provide the answers it wants. For example, in EPA’s power plant rule, the administration assumed that technologies such as hydrogen and carbon capture and sequestration were currently available to reach the conclusions they wanted. Refrigerator standards are much like dishwasher and clotheswasher standards where there have been so many revised standards over the decades that they come at diminishing returns or negative returns. In the past, some standards have increased the upfront cost of the appliance more than the projected savings from lower energy costs.

Regardless, the Biden administration finds positive returns to support the finalization of its standards due to hidden assumptions in its models, which result in higher-cost products for Americans that may not work as well. For example, new standards for dishwashers have led to cycles taking as much as twice as long to finish. The new DOE standards take choice away from American consumers, who can decide for themselves what is best for their needs. The standards substitute consumer choice for authoritarian dictates, not only for consumers but also for manufacturers.

Biden’s Copious List of New Standards

According to DOE, the administration proposed or finalized a total of 30 regulations in 2023 as part of President Biden’s climate agenda and has pledged to continue moving forward with more regulations in 2024. According to experts, the Biden administration’s energy efficiency actions will ultimately harm consumers and drive prices higher since manufacturers will be forced to adopt newer technologies to achieve standards that do not necessarily benefit consumers. For example, DOE’s efficiency standards for stovetops proposed in February compromise some of the features that gas stove users want, while saving an insignificant amount of energy. According to the agency’s analysis, those standards would effectively ban half of all available gas stoves.

After DOE released its proposed stovetop regulations, it proposed regulations for clothes washers and refrigerators in February; finalized standards for air conditioners in March; proposed regulations on dishwashers in May; issued a proposal targeting water heaters in July; and proposed standards for furnaces in September. The Biden administration is not just tweaking regulations, it is effectively banning whole categories of appliances that are sold on the market to advance President Biden’s climate agenda. Green energy groups want to electrify homes and businesses, reducing reliance on natural gas while simultaneously demanding the replacement of current fossil fuel-fired power with intermittent and unreliable wind and solar power because the commercial and residential sectors account for over 30 percent of total end-use carbon dioxide emissions in the United States–the largest share of any sector including industry, transportation, and agriculture. Fossil fuels, however, allow people to work at jobs and provide Americans with a livable environment in their homes and places of business.

Industry is challenging DOE’s Furnace Standard

The natural gas industry is challenging the Biden administration over its regulations targeting traditional gas-powered residential furnaces. The American Gas Association (AGA), whose members provide natural gas to more than 74 million customers nationwide, several trade associations, and one manufacturer recently filed a legal challenge against the Department of Energy (DOE) over the regulations.

The DOE’s finalized regulations, which are slated to go into effect in 2028, require furnaces to achieve an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) of 95 percent, meaning manufacturers would only be allowed to sell furnaces that convert at least 95 percent of fuel into heat within six years. The current market standard AFUE for a residential furnace is 80 percent.

Because the regulation effectively bans the sale of a large number of gas furnaces that consumers want, AGA said that DOE needs a solutions-oriented approach to energy conservation that protects consumers and ensures the continued availability of low-cost, low-emission natural gas furnaces. According to AGA President and CEO Karen Harbert its 114 pages of comments have been summarily ignored by DOE. The regulations impact 55 percent of American households and would lead to higher costs for 30 percent of senior households, 27 percent of small businesses, and 26 percent of low-income households.


The finalized and proposed standards will increase the demand for electricity and with it the cost of electricity to consumers. Residential electricity prices have increased 21 percent since Biden took office as his climate agenda is attempting to replace coal and natural gas generators with mostly intermittent and unreliable wind and solar power. While the displacement has retired a large number of coal plants and some gas plants, the share of coal and gas power to the total has only declined by a single percentage point since Biden took office as the capacity factors of wind and solar power are much lower than fossil fuel plants. But it has affected the reliability of the power grid, with little new firm capacity that can reliably meet new demand, as Senator Joe Manchin points out below.

Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia and Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has pushed back against the Biden administration’s regulations targeting home appliances. Manchin criticized DOE’s aggressive energy efficiency rulemaking, arguing the agency should allow the free market to improve product technology rather than force such changes through regulation. According to Manchin, “It absolutely shows you how disconnected the [DOE] is with the facts and reality of what’s happening to the grid system.” “We’ve had so many warnings from [the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] and [North American Electric Reliability Corporation] and everybody else that the grid is strained to say the least.” “And we’re taking more dispatchable power off the grid. That means 24/7, mostly fossil — because of the movement of this administration. It is putting us in the danger zone, the grid,” he continued. “With all the movement and demand for more electric appliances that would take the place of gas whether it be a stove or furnace. It absolutely makes no sense and is not in check with reality. Absolutely not.”

The Institute for Energy Research (IER) is a not-for-profit organization that conducts intensive research and analysis on the functions, operations, and government regulation of global energy markets. IER maintains that freely-functioning energy markets provide the most efficient and effective solutions to today’s global energy and environmental challenges and, as such, are critical to the well-being of individuals and society.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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