Now, the CEI is gloating over a recent Consumer Reports article that found that some top-loading clothes washers are more expensive and less effective at cleaning since the advent of government regulations mandating increased energy efficiency. CEI is so bent out of shape, in fact, that they're asking folks to send the Undertreasury of Energy their underpants in protest. Yeah, that'll teach 'em to make regulations!
In his latest column (Green Isn't Clean In the Laundry Room), Mr. Tierney, who prides himself on "questioning the conventional wisdom on science" eats out of CEI's hand, dutifully reporting that:
Thanks to new federal standards, washing machines are using less energy — but as a result they cost more and clean less, as Consumer Reports concludes in its new issue:So many things are wrong here, but let's start with the fact that Consumer Reports found plenty of machines that wash very well indeed while meeting the new energy standards. The fact that some don't would seem to be the fault of the particular manufacturers, not the government, no?
"Not so long ago, you could count on most washers to get your clothes very clean. Not anymore. Our latest tests found huge performance differences among machines. Some left our stain-soaked swatches nearly as dirty as they were before washing. For best results, you’ll have to spend $900 or more."
Which is precisely what Sam Kazman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute predicted six years ago when the Bush administration enacted the new efficiency standards with promises that new technology would clean clothes better and save money.
Even a cursory reading of the Consumer Reports item shows that the biggest problems were found in conventional top-loaders. It did not find many problems with front-loaders, which clean very well and which not only save energy but water too. What's more, even among top-loaders the more expensive, high-efficiency models score well.
But that's too nuanced for Tierney. In the polemic he has formulated, government, with the connivance of environmentalists, has made all clothes washers worse and more expensive, period. For CEI's part, here is what Sam Kazman (an attorney) wrote in a 2001 New York Times opinion piece:
The new rule is likely to restrict the availability of low-priced top loading clothes washers, replacing many with European-style frontloaders. Yet many people hate bending down to load laundry, and like being able to quickly open a machine in mid cycle to add a misplaced sock. Low-income families will also lose out, given their difficulty financing the new washer's higher prices.Yes, well, God forbid you should have to bend down or throw that sock in the next load! Not in the Home of the Brave, we don't!
As for the high-minded concern for low-income families, it's worth remembering that CEI is a libertarian organization that would yank every last shred of government support out from under low-income families just on principle.
So, to sum up: Yes, washers are getting more expensive, but isn't that what competition within the marketplace is for -- to bring those prices down, over time? Finally, both Kazman and Tierney dismiss the fact that the costs are offset by energy and water savings. And Tierney doesn't see fit to mention that many utilities and water districts now offer rebates to consumers who buy more efficient units, further reducing the cost. No surprise there; such considerations undermine an already weak case.