The Department of Energy is considering updating efficiency rules for residential clothes dryers again, after regulations enacted in 2011 took effect in January 2015.
Mercatus Center Regulatory Studies Program research fellow Sherzod Abdukadirov says new regulations do not significantly benefit consumers.
“The average lifetime cost savings from higher energy efficiency standards per person are about $14. That’s it. That’s the total savings we get from going through this entire process,” he said.
Abdukadirov says government regulations’ cost-cutting benefits are exaggerated.
“The only way these numbers look impressive is if you first multiply by the total American population, which is very large, and also multiply it by 30 years, which is their typical protection. Then you start getting the billion dollars of benefits or savings.
“If you look just per person, how much is it saving an average American? It’s a few dollars,” he he said. “The question becomes, at what point do you stop interfering and intervening into economy, and micromanaging peoples’ lives?”
Abdukadirov says government regulations’ costs outweigh any potential benefits to consumers.
“If you take away, for a second, the consumer savings and just look at this regulation as an environmental regulation, we’re essentially paying $2 in higher costs for just $1 of environmental payoff,” he said. “That’s something that people have to realize, that these regulations promise to save consumers money but, when you start looking at how much they actually save per appliance per person, it’s actually very little.”
Letting Consumers Decide
Competitive Enterprise Institute general counsel Sam Kazman says consumers should be trusted to decide which product features they want.
“The basic question you’ve got to ask in any proceeding like this is ‘if this new technology and standards are going to be saving people money, then why do they have to force consumers to buy them,'” he said. “There are very questionable savings, they’re not dramatic, but the real thing is… why can’t consumers be trusted to make these decisions on their own?
Kazman says efficiency regulations are not written with consumers’ best interests in mind.
“I think the end result of this all is just to reduce the energy usage period, whether consumers benefit or not in the end,” he said. “I just don’t think DOE can assess, and I don’t think they even care very much.”
Kazman says questioning the intentions behind ever-increasing efficiency regulations is unpopular, but important.
“One big problem with energy efficiency mandates is that both Republicans and Democrats tend to treat them as an apple pie-type thing that nobody can criticize ratcheting up and, so, why not make them higher and higher?
“Really, that ends up being a very stupid approach to consumer welfare,” he said.
Amelia Hamilton ([email protected]) writes from Traverse City, MI.