- The Washington Times - Friday, September 17, 2010

If ever there were any doubt that the new environmental movement’s primary goal is reversing progress made since the Industrial Revolution, look no further than Europe, where bureaucrats systematically are targeting the conveniences of modern life. To fight the imaginary problem of global warming - sorry, “global climate disruption” - the European Commission has before it a proposal to reduce the electricity used by the humble family vacuum cleaner, the London Telegraph reported. It’s only a matter of time before the bureaucracy on our side of the Atlantic sucks up this bad idea.

According to the final report on the subject prepared for European Union regulators, vacuums have steadily increased in power from 500 watts for an average upright 50 years ago to 2,500 watts today. The study asserts that “more power does not necessarily equate to better cleaning” and recommends a scheme to cut the allowed power level for vacuums to just 500 watts by 2014. Forget modern Hoovers and Dysons; it’s time for something out of the 1960 Sears catalog.

As the EU report explains, “an energy label on its own will not be enough to effect real energy savings. We are firmly of the belief that limiting input power ratings whilst maintaining good cleaning performance is achievable through the design improvement options.” Governments don’t have a positive track record when it comes to retaining performance on redesigned consumer products. If vacuums have less suction, homeowners will need to spend more time vacuuming, and the supposed “energy savings” will never materialize. The same thing happened in 1992 when congressional plumbers decided to redesign America’s commodes. Government-mandated low-flow toilet models were so ineffective that they required multiple flushes on each use, resulting in no net savings in water use.

Modern technology has delivered a solution to this pesky problem of consumers not doing as they’re told. In last year’s $814 billion stimulus package, President Obama poured 3.4 billion tax dollars into subsidies for “smart grid” projects designed to centralize control over major appliances that use electricity. The program, of course, is marketed as an advance that will deliver new options and savings to the consumer. The two-way communication underlying the concept, however, eventually will make it possible for big-ticket electrical items to be controlled remotely. In 1977, then-President Jimmy Carter called on every American “to lower the thermostat settings in all homes and buildings to no more than 65 degrees during the daytime and to a much lower setting at night.” Now the smart grid enables Big Brother to turn it down for you.

Congress already has regulated light bulbs, toilets, shower heads and washing machines. It’s only a matter of time before it adopts Europe’s forthcoming ban on fully functional vacuum cleaners. Forcing the public to return to push brooms and washcloths is not going to save the polar bears any more than Mr. Carter’s temperature austerity contributed to world peace. The new House and Senate should make repeal of these pointless appliance regulations a priority next year.

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