- The Obama administration closed out 2016 with new energy efficiency standards for five product classes, potentially saving between $15 billion and $35 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
- But because of a waiting period before the rules can be published in the Federal Register, it will be up to Donald Trump's incoming administration to finalize the new standards. Eliminating regulation, however, was one of the President-elect's main campaign promises.
- The new rules are not particularly controversial, and cover portable air conditioners, pool pumps, walk-in coolers and freezers, commercial boilers and uninterruptible power supplies.
There is not much partisanship, and very little fodder for sexy headlines, in appliance standards. That makes the new batch from Obama's Department of Energy a fascinating test case for Trump's incoming administration, which has on the whole been opposed to regulation from the current Administration.
The new rules were issued Dec. 28, but most must be available for public review for 45 days before they can be published in the Federal Register, essentially finalizing the process. Pool pump rules will be finalized under a different process, but it will still allow the Trump administration to play a role. According to Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, that means Trump and his DOE Secretary-designate Rick Perry will have final say.
"Needless to say, the new secretary comes at energy policy from a different perspective than his immediate predecessors, and he’ll want to review all sorts of matters handed off to him," deLaski wrote in a blog post. "Undoubtedly, he will hear from some advisors that anything to do with the Obama administration should be deep-sixed."
But deLaski also noted that as Texas governor, Perry signed water conservation standards and has shown a pragmatic streak. "There is reason to hope," he wrote.
Energy efficiency generally garnered support on both sides of the political aisle, but it appears that some of the most conservative members of the GOP party want nothing to do with new standards if the Obama administration is behind them.
The so-called House Freedom Caucus sent a list of regulations to President-elect Donald Trump that they want tossed. Among those are the efficiency standards for housing, appliances and power supplies finalized under the Obama administration.
The Obama administration has used appliance standards to try and reduce carbon emissions by at least 3 billion metric tons cumulatively by 2030. And his administration's work on the topic has little to do with politics, essentially continuing work begun by President George W. Bush.
Congress has set minimum energy conservation standards for consumer products and commercial and industrial equipment since 1975, beginning with the Energy Policy and Conservation Act. According to the Department of Energy, the standards saved American consumers $55 billion on their utility bills in 2013.