Bush Administration implements two energy efficiency standards but reverses another

The Bush Administration has approved standards requiring new clothes washers and water heaters to use less energy but decided to roll back an energy efficiency standard for central air conditioners.

All of the standards had been issued in the last two weeks of the Clinton presidency. The washing machine standards will require new washing machines to use 35% less energy starting with the 2007 model year. Water heaters must use 5% to 9% less energy beginning in 2004. The efficiency standards are expected to save billions of dollars in energy costs but significantly increase prices of new washing machines and water heaters. In addition the improved washing machines will cut water use nationwide by 10.5 trillion gallons by 2030 and save $15.3 billion in electricity costs.

However, environmental groups, consumer and low income groups, utilities, and state governments were outraged by the decision to rollback air conditioner standards and are to challenge the proposal in court. They belive that the action violates the appliance standards law signed by President Reagan in 1987 prohibiting rollbacks, and the Administrative Procedures Act, which defines the process for establishing new rules.

The standard for air conditioners is seen as especially important because those appliances account for peak electricity demands in the summer. Last summer, brief blackouts occurred in parts of the country because utilities ran short of generating capacity, and there were breakdowns in the nationwide power grid. The standard, developed over six years and published in January, would have made new air conditioners 30% more efficient by 2006. However, air conditioner manufacturers Carrier, Trane, and Lennox lobbied hard for the rollback.

“If this illegal rollback succeeds, when the power goes out in California and other parts of the country, President Bush will be to blame,” said David Nemtzow, President of the Alliance to Save Energy. “Rolling back energy efficiency in the face of our energy problems defies common sense.”

“The administration is trying to block one of the fastest, cheapest and cleanest sources of relief for the West’s badly overstressed power grid,” said Ralph Cavanagh, director of the Natural Resources Defence Council’s (NRDC) Energy Program.

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