Obama wants home appliances to be more energy-efficient

ByABC News
February 5, 2009, 11:09 PM

— -- President Obama ordered the Department of Energy on Thursday to set tough new energy-efficiency standards for a broad range of home appliances, from dishwashers and ovens to lamps and air conditioners.

That's a sharp break from Bush administration policy. It's also the latest sign Obama plans to move aggressively to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He's already pushed to double renewable energy in five years and boost fuel efficiency in vehicles.

Although final rules have yet to be issued, Obama indicated Thursday that appliance standards would be dramatically tightened.

He estimated that over 30 years, they'd save Americans $500 billion in electric bills and the amount of energy produced in two years by all coal-fired power plants in the U.S. "This will save consumers money, this will spur innovations, and this will conserve tremendous amounts of energy," Obama said.

The Bush administration was sued by environmental groups and 14 states for failing to update efficiency standards for 22 appliances as required by laws dating back to the 1970s. Following a 2006 settlement of the lawsuit and new legislation, the Bush White House eventually finalized standards for four appliances.

Obama's Energy Department must release new or updated standards for 30 product categories by 2011. Rules for some, including ovens, microwaves, lamps, dishwashers and commercial boilers, must be set by August. For products with later deadlines, Obama ordered the Energy Department to give priority to products that would produce the most energy savings.

Overall, efficiency will be boosted 5% to 40%, depending on the appliance, says Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project. He called the electricity savings "huge," adding it would be enough to power every home in the U.S. for 21/2 years.

"This dramatic change in energy policy will greatly improve America's approach to energy efficiency" and move it to "a clean energy future," says Frances Beinecke, who heads the Natural Resources Defense Council.