Nick Taylor

All Americans know just how terrible dishwashers have become in recent years, with cycles taking two and a half hours, and still not getting the job done!

Just 20 years ago, dishwashers were able to wash dishes in under an hour. So what happened? Like with most things, government got in the way and created “standards” which lead to consumers being worse off, and the environment being worse off as many Americans simply hand wash their dishes, wasting double the energy and water in the process. 

Under the previous administration, a new pro-consumer, pro-innovation rule was enacted by the Department of Energy allowing for the creation of fast, efficient, dishwashers, washing machines and driers which would make life easier for families. Despite overwhelming public support for the measure, the Biden Administration is considering revoking these common sense rules, and ensuring households will continue to struggling with poorly-operating household appliances for years to come.

ATR submitted the following letter to the Department of Energy urging them to oppose this anti-consumer, anti-innovation rule: 

October 12, 2021

Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Department of Energy
Forrestal Building 
1000 Independence Avenue, SW 
Washington, DC 20585

RE: Docket Number EERE-2021-BT-STD-0002; Energy Conservation Standards Regarding the Product Classes for Residential Dishwashers, Residential Clothes Washers, and Consumer Clothes Dryers  

To whom it may concern,  

Americans for Tax Reform thanks the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy for the opportunity to submit comments regarding the proposal to revoke 85 FR 68723 (Oct. 30, 2020) (“October 2020 Final Rule”); 85 FR 81359 (Dec. 16, 2020) (“December 2020 Final Rule”) which created new classes of products for residential dishwashers, clothes washers, and clothes dryers. It is submitted that the decision to revoke both the October 2020 Final Rule and the December 2020 Final rule is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of both the statutory regime created under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA), as well as a failure to adequately consider statutory factors with regards to consumer utility. Despite the differing product classes under both the October and December Product rules, given the similar nature of these two rules, for the purposes of these comments they shall be considered in tandem. 

It is fundamentally critical to note that under the EPCA, the Department of Energy (DOE) is required to access standards based on a number of set statutory factors. These include the economic impact of the standard on manufacturers and consumers, as well as “the utility or the performance of the covered product”. As such, it is the statutory obligation of the DOE to access the impact on consumer welfare. Unfortunately, the proposed rule fails to appropriately access these factors. The evidence demonstrates that faster classes of consumer appliances are of significant benefit to members of the public. This is demonstrated through publicly available polling data which shows in excess of 80% of consumers would find such projects useful, as well as public comments on the original bill, where of the individuals who submitted comments 98% were in favor. It is furthermore evident that shorter cycles of these appliances are particularly beneficial to larger families, and, with in lower income brackets tending to have higher birth rates across the board, denying low-income families access to such services – which may not be needed by higher income families, or those able to afford housekeeping services, indirectly penalizes the poor and helps exacerbate the problems associated with income inequalities. 

In addition to failing to adequately access consumer welfare, the proposed rulemaking follows an extremely superficial analysis of the environmental impact, neglecting to consider the abundance of evidence regarding the longer-term environmental benefits brought about through these new classes of products. While it is conceded that energy or water use may be slightly higher than under the older classes, relying purely on this metric fails to adequately capture the fullness of the scenario. Due to the length of time of the older product classes of dishwashers, significant numbers of Americans – up to 86% according to recent survey data – wash their dishes by hand, at least some or all of time. Washing dishes by hand is significantly more water and energy intensive than any form of dishwasher would be, and as such, this proposed rule may significantly increase water usage. Similarly, longer cycles for washing machines make it considerably more difficult to time their clothes washing around the weather, taking advantage of sunshine to dry their clothes. As a result, energy use would increase as people are forced to use tumble dryers when the new rules would allow for greater use of clotheslines. 

It is furthermore noted that the proposed rulemaking appears to be based on a form of statutory construction which is in direct contrast to the plain reading of the EPCA in arguing that no new product classes could loosen requirements. This interpretation of anti-backsliding provisions is in direct contrast to the relevant part of the EPCA which discusses the “performance-related feature justifies the establishment of a higher or lower standard” clearly demonstrating that newer product standards can lower requirements if adequately justified. 

It is further worth mentioning that while no products under the new rules have been presently introduced to market, this is partially attributed to regulatory uncertainty, and as this rule would simply block innovation without accessing future technological innovation, this is not an adequate reason to propagate the new rule. In addition, we caution against engaging in anti-competitive regulatory policy which would benefit existing manufacturers, at the expense of newer ones trying to enter the market; benefiting vested interests to prevent consumer interest would be contrary to all guides of sound public policy.

In seeking to rescind the October and December public rules, with no cost benefit analysis, no adequate analysis of consumer welfare or the disproportionate harm this rule would cause low-income earners, and no genuine analysis of the environmental impact, the DOE has failed to fulfil the statutory requirements of the EPCA. As such, we strongly urge the proposed rulemaking to be withdrawn. 

Thank you for taking the time to consider the points raised in this submission, and please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions. 


Tim Andrews
Director of Consumer Issues
Americans for Tax Reform