First, they came for our incandescent light bulbs and gas stoves, and now, they are after our water heaters and dishwashers.

Back in 2007, President George W. Bush signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act. Among other things, it required greater efficiency for light bulbs, which effectively began the phase-out of the incandescent light bulb, with some exceptions. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has confirmed that it will now proceed with a ban on the manufacture and retail sale of most incandescent light bulbs. The DOE claims that incandescent light bulbs are inefficient and contribute to climate change. Discontinuing them “will save Americans nearly $3 billion yearly and substantially reduce carbon dioxide emissions over 30 years” to the tune of 222 million metric tons, “an amount equivalent to emissions generated by 28 million homes in one year.”

In January of this year, the commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Rich Trumka, floated the idea of a future ban on gas stoves because they can cause indoor air pollution and contribute to climate change. House Republicans, joined by some Democrats, passed a bill recently to “prohibit the use of federal money to regulate gas stoves as a hazardous product” and to “block an Energy Department rule setting stricter energy efficiency standards for stovetops and ovens.”

Even some Democrats couldn’t handle these proposed regulations, like Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who has often been a thorn in the side of the Biden administration: “The federal government has no business telling me – or any American family – how to cook dinner. That’s why I’m proud to lead a bipartisan bill with @SenTedCruz to ensure Americans decide how to cook in their own homes.”

The DOE is now proposing as well more stringent efficiency requirements for electric water heaters: “The proposal would require the most common-sized electric water heaters to achieve efficiency gains with heat pump technology and gas-fired instantaneous water heaters to achieve efficiency gains through condensing technology.” The new standards will “save Americans approximately $198 billion and reduce 501 million metric tons of harmful carbon dioxide emissions cumulatively over 30 years — roughly equivalent to the combined annual emissions of 63 million homes, or approximately 50 percent of homes in the United States.”

But as Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY) has well said: “These products already exist in the free market. Consumers should decide whether the upfront cost of a heat-pump water heater is worth the possible long-term savings. In many cases, the monthly savings never make up for the upfront cost of the equipment.”

The Biden administration is also now targeting dishwashers. The DOE recently published a 255-page document proposing new energy-efficiency standards for dishwashers. The new standards will “save consumers nearly $3 billion in utility bill savings over the ensuing 30 years of shipments and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 12.5 million metric tons.”

But as the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Ben Lieberman pointed out: “By the agency’s own analysis, the proposed rule would save consumers $17 over the life of a standard dishwasher, which it estimates at 15.2 years. That works out to $1.12 per year. Against this miniscule benefit is the very real risk of greatly diminished performance and convenience for consumers.”

Things are actually worse than they appear.  The DOE’s Building Technologies Office (BTO) implements minimum energy conservation standards for more than 60 categories of appliances and equipment. The Energy and Policy Conservation Act of 1975 (EPCA) authorizes the Secretary of Energy to promulgate energy- and water-conservation standards for household appliances.

It is good to see Republicans push back against these DOE standards. However, they miss the point on government regulations.

The problem with these new government regulations is not that they are too stringent, too expensive, too annoying, cause more harm than good, have costs that exceed their benefits, or are based on the fallacy of a “climate crisis.” The problem with these new government regulations is the same problem with the old government regulations: they should not exist in the first place.

The Constitution nowhere authorizes the federal government to set safety standards, conservation standards, efficiency standards, emission standards, fuel economy standards, or any other kind of standards. Even if someone believes that it is the job of government to do these things, it is to the state governments that he must appeal. The federal government not only has no authority to regulate appliances, it has no authority to regulate automobiles, airplanes, toys, food, product labels, ladders, tires, drugs, or the hundreds of other things that it regulates.

One would think that Republicans—who claim to be the party of the Constitution—would know these things.

The truth is, Republicans are okay with government regulations as long as they are not excessive. Just like they are okay with funding family planning as long as abortions are not performed, funding the National Endowment for the Arts as long as it doesn’t fund pornographic art, and funding research grants as long as the grants are not for something too outrageous.

But Republicans don’t just miss the point on government regulations. They are hypocrites as well.

Speaking against the DOE proposal to regulate gas stoves out of existence, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) remarked that the rule is “not about public safety. It is about telling the American people the federal government knows best and will decide what kind of car they can drive, how they can heat their house and now how they’re allowed to cook food for their families.”

What she says may sound good, but the fact is that Republicans have always dictated what Americans can think, such as when it comes to discrimination, or what Americans can smoke when it comes to marijuana, or what Americans can do with their money when it comes to gambling. Examples of their hypocrisy, in fact, are too numerous to mention.

Republicans have been missing the point on government regulations for a very long time.

Laurence M. Vance

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