by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
When Cincinnati firefighter Ed Wallace bought a high efficiency Whirlpool washing machine, he came to regret the decision almost immediately. The machine used less water—not enough to clean Wallace’s work clothes—and his colleagues at the firehouse quickly took notice. “I walked past my guys and they say, ‘Dude, you stink!'” Wallace said. “I smelled myself, and yeah, that’s me stinking.”
Now, President Joe Biden is pushing regulations that could force Wallace’s stinky situation upon millions of Americans.
Biden’s Energy Department last month proposed new efficiency standards for washing machines that would require new appliances to use considerably less water, all in an effort to “confront the global climate crisis.” Those mandates would force manufacturers to reduce cleaning performance to ensure their machines comply, leading industry giants such as Whirlpool said in public comments on the rule. They’ll also make the appliances more expensive and laundry day a headache—each cycle will take longer, the detergent will cost more, and in the end, the clothes will be less clean, the manufacturers say.
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.