- - Tuesday, June 23, 2015

It’s a dirty shame what the bureaucrats are doing to our hands. They make people work harder as labor- and time-saving home appliances become too expensive. Millions more hands will be immersed frequently in dishwater after the Obama Administration’s second attack on automatic home dishwashers.

It’s all in the name of saving energy and thereby saving the planet. But who would want a planet filled with dirty dishes?

Dishwashers could use 6.5 gallons per cycle until 2012, when that limit was lowered to 5 gallons. The 2015 Department of Energy (DOE) proposal would drop it to 3.1 gallons per cycle.

Of the 2012 round, one writer said, “dishwasher manufacturers are not going to be allowed to make or sell a machine that works” because they are required to use less water. That was Jeffrey Tucker, publisher of Laissez Faire, who added “The reason that companies and consumers have not adopted the new standards on their own is that they are incompatible with clean dishes.”

Manufacturers cannot compensate for less water by pumping the water through higher-pressure nozzles because the energy use is also restricted. The 2012 regulation reduced energy usage to 307 kiloWatthour per year for a standard washer. The 2015 proposal drops that to 234 kWh/year.

Complying with 2012 regulations increased prices, which the Department of Energy (DOE) officially estimated as $44 per machine. Now their 2015 proposal will add another $99 by DOE’s own admission.

They claim consumers will recoup the expense through energy savings during the lifetime of the product. But dishwashers typically only last half as long as the DOE know-it-alls say it will take to recapture the extra costs.

“Under the new standard, it would take consumers twenty years to recover added product cost through electric utility savings, longer than the estimated product life;” complains the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, “over 70 percent of consumers would actually experience a net financial loss.”

Angie’s List estimates that a dishwasher typically lasts 8-10 years. The DOE expects them to last at least 20 years, so the supposed electricity savings could payback those higher purchase prices.

Water usage will increase, according to AHAM, because households would use extra water pre-rinsing, knowing that their machine would not clean dishes very well due to the mandatory reductions in water and electricity used. And as consumers run things through a second time, trying to get them clean, it means extra power is used.

Low-income and fixed-income households would be hit the hardest by the higher prices, as they often are by runaway regulations. Unable to afford the machines means more hand-washing of dishes. That also increases water usage. A great study by Sofie Miller at the George Washington University’s Regulatory Studies Center shows that “individuals who forego purchasing a dishwasher because of higher upfront costs will use between 67 [percent] and 210 percent more energy and between 250 [percent] and 450 percent more water. “

It all means fewer units would be purchased, so manufacturers would need fewer workers. The trade group fears a 80 percent drop in the value of their industry. The Department of Energy officially estimates “only” a 34.7 percent  decline. The proposed rule states, “DOE expects that manufacturers may lose up to 34.7 percent of their INPV, which is approximately $203.7 million.” For those who don’t speak bureaucratese, INPV is Industry Net Present Value.

Incredibly, DOE claims, “DOE does not expect any plant closings or significant loss of employment.” It’s an amazing industry that can lose over a third of its sales yet keep all its workers.

But according to the bureaucrats, the dishwasher regulations might single-handedly save the Earth. The DOE estimates the efficiency rules would reduce water consumption by 240 billion gallons over a 30-year period. They would also reduce energy consumption by 12 percent. The DOE estimates users of residential dishwashers could save more than $2 billion in utility bills. It sounds suspiciously like the glowing projections about the healthcare.gov website, which so far has cost more than $2 billion to create and still is incomplete.

Saving the planet won’t depend solely upon the dishwashers, because DOE proposes new energy efficiency standards also for refrigerators, freezers, icemakers, air conditioners, water heaters, multiple types of lamps, clothes washers and dryers, ceiling fans, and just about every other helpful and labor-saving home appliance.

Perhaps the true agenda of the regulators is nostalgia. We could return to the days when family members would be impressed into kitchen duty, to scrape, rinse, soak, wash, rinse, and dry the dishes, silverware, pots and pans together, doing it all by hand. What a cozy picture, presuming nobody spoils it with squabbles over whose turn it is to wash and whose to dry.

We might even see a revival of the TV commercials about doing the dishes. For 27 years, from the 1960’s into the 1990’s, actress Jan Miner portrayed Madge the manicurist, who used Palmolive dish soap to soak customers’ hands before doing their nails, to get rid of their “dishwater hands.” Jan is deceased, but thanks to DOE’s red tape we may witness a new generation of those commercials, just as Star Trek has its own new generation.

What we won’t see is a revival of commercials showing the lonely Maytag repairman. He’ll still be lonely, but since nobody can afford the product, he’s out of a job.

Former Congressman Ernest Istook is president of Americans for Less Regulation. Subscribe to his free email newsletter at .

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