Biden's Green Rules Mean Appliances Will Soon Cost More and Do Less, Experts Say

Consumer advocate: New Biden regulations mean that ‘everyday things that people want are going to get more expensive or disappear'

Biden's Green Rules Mean Appliances Will Soon Cost More and Do Less, Experts Say
An Energy Star rated appliance at a Best Buy store in Marin City, Calif., on March 26, 2010. (Justin Sullivan/file/Getty Images)
Kevin Stocklin
News Analysis

A pledge by the Biden administration in December 2022 to impose significantly tighter environmental standards on consumer goods is now becoming reality, and consumer groups are predicting a future in which Americans pay more for products that do less, while manufacturers warn of shortages and supply chain breakdowns.

“You’re seeing, just in the last few months, new rules from the Biden administration about clothes washers, dishwashers, and other kinds of kitchen appliances, and in every case, you’re talking about a tightening of already very, very tight standards,” O.H. Skinner, executive director of the Alliance for Consumers, told The Epoch Times.

“That will make it so that nearly the majority of the current products on the market don’t meet the standards and have to be redesigned or removed from the market. Everyday things that people actually want are going to get more expensive or disappear, and the products that will be available will be more expensive but not better. People are going to wonder why life is worse.”

These new regulations (pdf) from the Department of Energy (DOE) come on top of new Environmental Protection Agency emissions regulations on cars and electric utilities and efforts to ban gas stoves, which critics say will have similar consequences in those industries. Many of these new regulations will be finalized by next year and will give manufacturers several years to comply.
In December 2022, the White House announced that “the Biden-Harris Administration has surpassed its goal to take 100 actions in 2022 to strengthen energy efficiency standards for a range of appliances and equipment to lower costs for American families.” The announcement touted 110 new regulations enacted by federal agencies on “everything from air conditioners and furnaces, to clothes washers and dryers, to kitchen appliances and water heaters—as well as commercial and industrial equipment.”

According to the Biden administration: “Once finalized, these standards will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 2.4 billion metric tons, equivalent to the carbon emissions from 10 million homes, 17 million gas cars, or 21 coal-fired power plants over 30 years. The projected consumer savings from these standards would be $570 billion cumulatively, and for an average household this will mean at least $100 in annual savings.”

These actions follow a familiar pattern: rumors of new directives, followed by official denials, followed by draconian diktats. For example, reports that the Consumer Product Safety Commission would ban gas stoves over alleged safety concerns sparked a public outcry in January, which was met with ridicule from the media and denials by the commission that any such thing was being contemplated. This was then followed by new environmental standards from the DOE that would ban the manufacturing of 50 percent of the gas stoves available on the market today.
The DOE rules elicited criticism from House Republicans, who in a March 21 letter to DOE Secretary Jennifer Granholm called the regulations “a blatant back door attempt to ban gas appliances enjoyed by millions of Americans."

“Your attempt to ban gas appliances has no basis in law or within your jurisdiction,” Republican representatives charged. “The Department of Energy has enjoyed bipartisan support, your actions to appease the Biden Administration’s radical climate agenda does not reflect well upon the Department.”

While consumer advocates doubt that these new measures will save Americans money, appliance makers say consumers won't be happy with the products that are left to buy.

New Appliances Will Be ‘Closer to 1950s’ Than to 2020

Instead of allowing appliance manufacturers to innovate products for features that consumers want, “they are literally going to have to redesign products that will look closer to the 1950s than they do to 2020,” Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers spokesperson Jill Notini said.

Manufacturers say they've been trying to work with the DOE to moderate the new rules, citing a tradition of cooperation between agencies and industry when developing new standards, but they say they're hitting a wall with the Biden administration.

Among what one industry executive called “an avalanche” of new rules are regulations that force dishwasher and washing machine manufacturers to cut water use and energy consumption by one-third. New DOE rules would effectively eliminate 98 percent of all top-loading washing machines on the market today and would mandate that the machines be larger and without the central agitator that increases cleaning performance.

Manufacturers say these rules would add $200 to the cost of a washing machine and would also halt the production of less expensive clothes dryers that don’t meet strict federal Energy Star efficiency standards. Microwave ovens are also on the list of targeted appliances.

Led by Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti, 21 state attorneys general wrote to Granholm on May 2 to “register their concern with the Department of Energy’s new attempt to control what appliances Americans can buy.”

“The administration’s plan to micromanage people’s choices of everyday kitchen appliances will result in fewer choices, less functionality, and higher costs for consumers,” Skrmetti told The Epoch Times.

“The regulations are legally faulty because they rest on poor reasoning and shaky facts. This kind of bureaucratic overreach lies far outside the scope of the federal government envisioned by the Constitution.”

The AGs’ letter criticizes, among other things, the DOE’s “blind reliance” on estimates by the Interagency Working Group on the Social Costs of Greenhouse Gasses that are “fundamentally flawed and are an unreliable metric on which to base administrative action.”

The AGs also charge that the DOE, in its analysis, “ignores consumers’ reactions and preferences” and “dismisses the costs manufacturers will incur to comply with the proposed standards.”

Liberal States Join in Pushing Green Agenda

Regulations are not only coming down from federal agencies; left-leaning states are also instituting bans on internal combustion engine vehicles, gas stoves, gas heating, and other fossil-fuel-powered products. In response to state auto emissions mandates, Stellantis, which owns the Dodge, Chrysler, and Jeep brands, stated that it'll reduce shipments of gas-powered cars to states including California, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Washington, Oregon, New Jersey, Maryland, Colorado, Minnesota, Nevada, Virginia, and New Mexico in order to comply with new emissions rules in those states that seek to force consumers to switch to electric vehicles (EVs) over the next decade.
A car dealer in Delaware told The Wall Street Journal that he'll no longer receive regular supplies of popular gas-powered Jeep models but will instead offer electric SUVs that will cost $20,000 more. If federal subsidies don’t convince enough consumers to buy EVs, carmakers may be forced to reduce the number of gas-powered cars they sell in order to comply with regulations that are measured in terms of fleet averages.

California has mandated that EVs, which currently make up about one-fifth of auto sales, must make up 100 percent of new sales by 2035. Auto manufacturers that fail to meet this threshold can buy regulatory credits from EV makers such as Tesla, further driving up the cost of gas-powered cars.

“The majority of cars that are currently being sold will disappear, to be replaced by electric cars that are currently a tiny fraction of the market,” Skinner said. “By replacing the majority of cars on the road with more expensive cars, cars that we may not be able to produce, ever, at the numbers that are needed to replicate life today, it’s very reasonable to predict a future where government actors are guiding us toward fewer people having access to cars.”

He also said many of the EVs currently sold are smaller cars, which are attractive for drivers near cities who travel short distances with few passengers. But they may not be suitable for families or those who live in rural areas.

“The ability to buy a car that can safely transport a family of five, that’s going to be an immense cost, way beyond what people are used to today,” Skinner said. “A lot of these $50,000 electric cars are basically sedans; when Chevy comes out with an electric Suburban, I shudder to think how many batteries you’re going to need for that.”

Because many cheaper products will be eliminated from the market, the costs of the “110 actions” will likely fall most heavily on lower-income Americans. And in addition to consumers losing their ability to choose which products they want, manufacturers are warning that the new regulations will lead to shortages.

A coalition of car makers, home builders, and electric utilities penned a letter (pdf) to President Joe Biden on May 22 informing him that his energy transition, including his plans for a rapid expansion of the electric grid and the EV charging network, left them critically short of essential materials, in particular electric steel.

“Electric motors, transformers, electric vehicle chargers, generators, and other critical electrical equipment all require electrical steel due to its unique properties that reduce power loss,” they wrote. “Shortages of domestic electrical steel are contributing to significant and persistent supply chain challenges across our industries."

Among these “challenges” were meeting EV production goals, being able to restore power after electricity outages, and “an insufficient inventory of distribution transformers to meet the demand for new home and commercial construction.”

“While two domestic manufacturers have committed recently to increase ... production, even with this expanded output, domestic supply levels will still fall far short to meet electrification goals and satisfy demand created by the IIJA [Infrastructure Act] and the IRA [Inflation Reduction Act],” the letter reads.

Increasingly, the United States is being forced to turn to China to fill the gap.

Dependence on China

Regarding strategic issues, some economists say the Biden administration’s rapid, state-enforced transition will make the United States more dependent on China.

“The Biden administration’s strategy of decoupling from China when it comes to critical materials necessary for the administration’s grand ideas about transitioning to green energy is little more than pie in the sky,” Steve Hanke, professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University, told The Epoch Times.

Hanke, who served on President Ronald Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers, said, “China has an outsized world dominance in what I term the Three Ms: 1) Mining and Mineral Engineering, 2) Metallurgical Engineering, and 3) Materials Science and Engineering.”

These industries are essential to supplying the raw materials and components for wind turbines, solar panels, and EVs. And China has a chokehold on the production and refining of many of the mineral inputs for the products that are mandated by the Biden administration.

According to a July 2022 report from the Brookings Institution: “Consumption of these critical minerals—most notably nickel, copper, lithium, and cobalt—is projected to rise, largely driven by their use in the renewable energy sector. Demand is expected to quadruple by 2040 under the International Energy Agency’s Sustainable Development Scenario, in which global action would limit the global temperature rise to well below 2°C, and it is projected to rise by six times under a net-zero scenario. ... China is the dominant player in global mineral processing.”
Hanke also cited rare-earth minerals such as neodymium, dysprosium, and terbium, which are necessary to produce the magnets found in wind turbines and EVs. One three-megawatt direct-drive wind turbine contains nearly two tons of these magnets, he said in a May 4 op-ed.

“Stunningly, China is responsible for 90% of the production of these rare-earth magnets,” he wrote.

The renewables transition is giving China the strategic leverage in minerals that OPEC has in oil production.

“If the U.S. insists on pushing China around in the sphere of critical materials, China can push back, and push back hard,” Hanke wrote. “As Deng Xiaoping put it in 1987, ‘the Middle East has oil; China has rare earths.’”

Kevin Stocklin is a business reporter, film producer and former Wall Street banker. He wrote and produced "We All Fall Down: The American Mortgage Crisis," a 2008 documentary on the collapse of the mortgage finance system. His most recent documentary is "The Shadow State," an investigation of the ESG industry.