By Ben Lieberman, Competitive Enterprise Institute
This year began with a powerful consumer backlash to the suggestion from a Biden administration official that gas stoves may be banned, followed by strident denials from the administration that any such ban is in the works. Despite these denials, the administration is moving ahead with stove regulations while also proposing equally bad ones for dishwashers, refrigerators, air conditioners, washing machines, ceiling fans, and water heaters. And just last Friday, it finalized one for furnaces. Hardly a room in the house is being left untouched. Virtually every one of these regulations threatens higher up-front costs and compromised performance and features, and they are a big part of the administration’s embrace of climate change policy at the expense of consumers.
As one might expect of a regulatory agenda so unpopular, members of Congress are working on a number of bills to outlaw these regulations or place limits on future ones. In fact, legislation preemptively stopping stove regulations has already passed through the House with bipartisan support. A bill blocking the proposed water heaters regulation has been introduced and more are in the works.
And now, several House members are seeking to use the appropriations process to defund the bureaucrats responsible for these rules.
Most of these proposed or recently finalized appliance rules are efficiency standards from the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). These activities will be funded under “ H.R. 4394 – Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act,” which is currently being debated by the House. And several members are essentially saying “no money, no more appliance regulations.”
Sixty-one amendments have been introduced thus far. Some members want to go for the jugular, reducing or even eliminating the funding for EERE. Others are targeting specific appliance regulations, including the ones for furnaces, water heaters, and room air conditioners, which means the agency can’t spend any money to move forward with regulatory restrictions.
Granted, withholding appropriations in this manner is not the best way to stop out-of-control regulators. It still leaves intact DOE’s legal authority to target home appliances, and any regulations already finalized remain on the books. It only prevents the agency from spending money to implement existing rules or concoct any new ones, at least for the time being.
For this reason, it is much better to pass substantive legislation explicitly ending (or at least greatly reducing) DOE’s authority to micromanage home appliances. Unfortunately, such legislation is unlikely to get enacted under President Biden, so a must-pass appropriations bill is a more realistic vehicle to fight government meddling in our kitchens and other rooms. In other words, if you can’t beat ‘em, defund ‘em.
That said, the appropriations process can be a useful tool to at least slow down the regulatory nonsense. And it certainly sends a message that the American people want to hear: Washington can’t spend your money to create appliance regulations you don’t want.
Ben Lieberman is a senior fellow who specializes in environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.