Wednesday, June 17, 2015

It’s a dirty shame what the bureaucrats are doing to our hands.

Government regulators are making make people work harder as labor- and time-saving home appliances become too expensive. Millions of more American hands will be immersed more frequently in dishwater after the Obama administration’s second attack on automatic home dishwashers.

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It’s all in the name of saving energy and thereby saving the planet — but who would want a planet filled with dirty dishes?

Dishwashers could use 6.5 gallons per cycle until 2012, when the limit was lowered to 5 gallons. A 2015 Department of Energy proposal would drop that again to just 3.1 gallons per cycle.

Of the 2012 regulatory round, one writer said, “Dishwasher manufacturers are not going to be allowed to make or sell a machine that works” because they are required to use less water. That was Jeffrey Tucker, publisher of Laissez Faire, who added, “The reason that companies and consumers have not adopted the new standards on their own is that they are incompatible with clean dishes.”

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Manufacturers cannot compensate for less water by pumping the water through higher-pressure nozzles because the energy use is also restricted. The 2012 regulation reduced energy usage to 307 kilowatt-hours per year for a standard washer. The 2015 proposal drops that to 234 kWh/year.

Complying with 2012 regulations increased prices, which the Department of Energy officially estimated as $44 per machine. Now their 2015 proposal will add another $99 to the price tag, by DOE’s own admission.

The department claims consumers will recoup the expense through energy savings over the lifetime of the product. But dishwashers typically only last half as long as the DOE know-it-alls say it will take to recapture the extra costs.

“Under the new standard, it would take consumers 20 years to recover added product cost through electric utility savings, longer than the estimated product life,” complains the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM). “Over 70 percent of consumers would actually experience a net financial loss.”

Angie’s List estimates that a dishwasher typically lasts eight to ten years. The DOE expects them to last at least 20 years, so the supposed electricity savings could pay back those higher purchase prices.

Water usage will increase, according to AHAM, because households would use extra water to pre-rinse, knowing that their machine would not clean dishes very well. And as consumers run things through a second time, trying to get them clean, even more power and water will be used.

Low-income and fixed-income households would be hit the hardest by the higher prices, as they often are by runaway regulations. For households unable to afford the machines, that means more hand-washing of dishes, which also increases water usage. A great study by Sofie Miller at the George Washington University’s Regulatory Studies Center finds that “individuals who forgo purchasing a dishwasher because of higher upfront costs will use between 67 and 210 percent more energy and between 250 and 450 percent more water.”

The upshot: Fewer units will be purchased, so manufacturers will need fewer workers. The trade group fears a 80 percent drop in the value of their industry. The Department of Energy officially estimates “only” a 34.7 percent decline. The proposed rule states, “DOE expects that manufacturers may lose up to 34.7 percent of their INPV, which is approximately $203.7 million.” For those who don’t speak bureaucratese, INPV is “industry net present value.”

Incredibly, the Obama administration claims that “DOE does not expect any plant closings or significant loss of employment.” It’s an amazing industry that can lose over a third of its sales yet keep all its workers.

But according to the bureaucrats, the dishwasher regulations might single-handedly save the Earth. The DOE estimates the efficiency rules would reduce water consumption by 240 billion gallons over a 30-year period. They would also reduce energy consumption by 12 percent. The DOE estimates users of residential dishwashers could save more than $2 billion in utility bills. It sounds suspiciously like the glowing projections about the healthcare.gov website, which so far has cost over $2 billion to create and still is incomplete.

Saving the planet won’t depend solely upon the dishwashers, because DOE proposes new efficiency standards also for refrigerators, freezers, icemakers, air conditioners, water heaters, multiple types of lamps, clothes washers and dryers, ceiling fans and just about every other labor-saving home appliance.

Perhaps the true agenda of the regulators is nostalgia, a dream of returning to the days when family members would be pressed into kitchen duty, to scrape, rinse, soak, wash and dry the dishes, silverware, pots and pans together, doing it all by hand. What a cozy picture, presuming nobody spoils it with squabbles over whose turn it is to wash and whose to dry.

We might even see a revival of some vintage TV commercials. For 27 years, from the 1960s into the 1990s, actress Jan Miner portrayed Madge the manicurist, who used Palmolive dish soap to soak customers’ hands before doing their nails, to get rid of their “dishwater hands.” Jan is deceased, but thanks to DOE’s red tape, we may witness a new generation of those commercials, just as Star Trek has its own new generation.

What we won’t see is a revival of the lonely Maytag repairman. He’ll still be lonely, but since nobody can afford the product, he’ll be out of a job.

Former Congressman Ernest Istook is president of Americans for Less Regulation. Subscribe to his free email newsletter at https://eepurl.com/JPojD.

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