- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 14, 2001

Just when you thought it was safe to go through the dirty clothes basket … OK, it still isn't safe to go there, but Clinton regulators soiled it up even more by attempting to mandate the type of washing machine you can buy.

At about the same time that Democratic fund-raiser Beth Dohertz was doing dirty deeds that were definitely not done dirt cheap, the Department of Energy (DOE) was outlawing top-loading, or vertical-loading, washing machines through yet another midnight regulation.

Now most bachelors (and possibly bachelorettes) believe that the best way to clean clothes is to bury them in the park, or at least a lesser-known neighbor's back yard. However, those who don't frequently mix up their washing machine and their oven believe that this regulation has hung them out to dry.

In the first place, front-loading washing machines are far more costly, $200 on average, than vertical loaders. Anecdotal evidence suggests that because horizontal loaders lack an agitator (those they find at the DOE), they do not clean as well as their vertical loading counterparts. They do have longer cycle times, and they require special detergents. "If consumers try using normal detergents in them, they tend to over sud and don't get the clothes fully clean," according to Melissa Naudin of Citizens Against Government Waste. Moreover, horizontal loaders seem to offer a literal open door for toddlers to learn about the spin cycle the hard way. It's no wonder that only about 10 percent of consumers actually own front-loaders.

Nor is it any wonder that a consortium of appliance manufacturers and federally funded advocacy groups have stained themselves by supporting the regulation. Former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, who may have spent too much time staring into the Xerox machine at Los Alamos, argued, "The new clothes washers standards are a win-win for consumers and the environment."

Indeed, bureaucrats at the DOE believe that vertical loaders contribute to the greenhouse effect by using more energy than their front-loading counterparts. Yet dirty clothes (especially those owned by a bachelor) arguably have far worse effects on the environment. Moreover, to forecast consumer cost-savings, DOE assumed that each horizontal washing machine would do 392 loads per year about 392 more loads then many bachelors do.

Thankfully for consumers, Rep. Joe Knollenberg rode up in a white shirt, introducing legislation which extended the period for public comment on the regulation outlawing vertical-loaders. The DOE is still spinning the regulation, although an edict from Secretary Spence Abraham could wash it away. Consumers are encouraged to assist the cleanup of this dirty regulation by calling their local congressional representative and agitating for its removal.

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