Salvo Challenges Value of US Energy Efficiency Standards

With their repeated attempts to prevent the ban on inefficient light bulbs and even questioning the value of increased fuel economy standards for cars and trucks in their latest hearings, we’ve often wondered when Republicans would take aim at energy efficiency standards in general.

It looks like that day has come.

A report published last week by the anti-regulatory advocacy group Mercatus Center (associated with the Koch brothers), Overriding Consumer Preferences with Energy Regulations, argues that appliance and auto efficiency standards reduce consumer choice and aren’t justified because the environmental benefits are small and consumer benefits are non-existent.

Altogether, the 55 categories of consumer and commercial products covered by national efficiency standards, are resulting in cumulative savings of the energy required to meet the needs of the entire US economy for two years! That’s from their inception through 2035 – the new standards aren’t included in these figures. And they created about 340,000 jobs in 2010, 0.2% of jobs in the US.

But we can’t say it better than ACEEE. Here’s their response.

This report is so full of false claims, inaccurate assumptions, and misleading statements that it’s hard to know where to start refuting them, says ACEEE.

False claim #1: "Current energy efficiency initiatives do very little to address climate change"

Taking into account all U.S. appliance standards to date going back to those originally signed into law by Ronald Reagan, and  updated by two Republican and two Democratic administrations since, they reduced 2010 emissions 3.5% and  8% of projected 2025 emissions. 

Vehicle fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for model years 2012-2016 are projected to lower car and light truck emissions 21%. 

There’s undoubtedly more that can and should be done to address climate change, but to suggest that standards "do very little" is absurd.

False claim #2: Efficiency standards restrict consumer choice

Refrigerators are the most regulated appliance in America, with standards updated about six times over 30 years.  Do you have fewer choices in refrigerators than you did 10 years ago? For those who can remember, than 30 years ago? How about for clothes washers? Or for light bulbs?

Consumer choices have increased even as standards have eliminated energy-inefficient models from the market.

Refrigerators come with a wider array of configurations, ice and water dispenser options, built-in designs, etc. Clothes washers have an array of energy- and water-efficient front-loading and top-loading designs at a wide range of price points.

For light bulbs, manufacturers report the standards spurred them to introduce a new generation of energy-efficient incandescent bulbs so that consumers can now choose among energy-efficient incandescent, compact fluorescent, and newly-introduced LED options. 

False claim #3: Consumer savings are non-existent

The net present value of consumer benefits from all standards completed to date now tops $1.1 trillion dollars, according to our report, The Efficiency Boom. And that’s probably an under-estimate.

One need look no further than the refrigerator – a typical new fridge uses one-third the energy as one from the 1970s and is larger and more fully featured, yet costs only one-third as much.  This year’s update for fridge, washers and dishwashers will save $31 billion

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