- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Regulation-weary Americans had better brace themselves for another load of government-knows-best activism as President Obama’s green czarina claims she has a mandate to pick what household appliances we can use in the future. Cathy Zoi, assistant energy secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy, recently outlined the administration’s so-called clean-energy strategy, under which new government standards will force market transformation for products such as small electric motors, water heaters, pool heaters, space heaters and commercial clothes washers.

At a meeting of the newly reconstituted Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, Ms. Zoi recounted three government initiatives to prop up purportedly “green” energy projects with subsidies, tax incentives and low-interest federal loans. She then enthused over the power to dictate policy: “The fourth one, which [Energy Secretary Steven Chu] and I love, is where we have a mandate. Where we can actually just issue regulations and do market transformation,” CNSnews.com reported.

Within the cockles of every liberal activist’s heart is the desire to plug into Washington’s political power grid and short-circuit the free market in accordance with the activists’ eco-creed. Earlier this month, the Energy Department announced it had issued penalty notices to 27 appliance manufacturers, importers and private labelers for violating energy-efficiency requirements, including such global brands as Daewoo, Sanyo and General Electric. Sanyo, for example, was written up for violations on 57 models of refrigerators. Fines as large as $316,000 were threatened, but reductions to as little as $5,000 were offered to those who agreed to settle within 30 days. The department put industry on notice that new efficiency standards for other appliances are on the way as well.

When energy-efficient appliances offer cost savings, consumers will choose them over wasteful ones. Initially, however, more efficient machines can be more expensive to build and buy. That’s why government busybodies feel the need to intervene in the marketplace with subsidies, tax incentives and federal loans to make bureaucrat-favored products more affordable right now. Uncle Sam entices consumers using money that he will quietly extract from their wallets later in the form of higher taxes. There’s no free lunch.


Ms. Zoi says her job is to raise public awareness about the potential for clean energy - or, as she puts it, “winning hearts and minds.” From that perspective, if only a light bulb would switch on inside common folk, the “market transformation” she craves could proceed apace. The green czarina and the Obama administration have no faith that the marketplace is fully capable of balancing the values of efficiency and affordability or that hardworking consumers on tight budgets are better able to judge which appliances best suit their family needs than self-important regulators.

O Zone dwellers may witness American voters perform some market transformation of their own this November as they decide which politicos remain available in the leadership market for use in the future.