The proposed washing machine rule marks the latest example of the administration turning to consumer regulations to advance its climate change goals. Last month, the Energy Department published an analysis of its proposed cooking appliance efficiency regulations, which it found would effectively ban half of all gas stoves on the U.S. market from being sold. The department has also proposed new efficiency standards for refrigerators, which could come into effect in 2027. “Collectively these energy efficiency actions … support President Biden’s ambitious clean energy agenda to combat the climate crisis,” the Energy Department said in February.
While the Energy Department—which did not return a request for comment—acknowledged in its proposal that “maintaining acceptable cleaning performance can be more difficult as energy and water levels are reduced,” it expressed confidence that Whirlpool and other appliance manufacturers can comply with its regulations without sacrificing stain removal and other performance standards. For the Heritage Foundation’s Travis Fisher, however, manufacturer concerns over the proposal are justified.
“When you’re squeezing all you can out of the efficiency in terms of electricity use and water … you by definition either make the appliance worse or slower,” said Fisher, who serves as a senior research fellow at the foundation’s Center for Energy, Climate, and Environment. “Why are we so focused on the energy output, as opposed to if it’s helping me wash my clothes? That standard has kind of gone off the rails.”