The Biden administration may soon finalize regulations on gas-powered home furnaces, restricting consumers’ ability to purchase units found to be outside of the administration’s greenhouse gas emissions goals within the next few months.
The regulations proposed by the Department of Energy (DOE) in June 2022 would likely limit consumer choice, increase prices, and have a minimal effect on greenhouse gas emissions.
The agency could soon finalize the rules governing residential gas furnaces, which more than half of American households use for space heating.
According to the current federal Unified Agenda, a government-wide, semiannual list of regulations that agencies plan to propose or finalize within the next 12 months, the Biden administration is moving forward with rules affecting dozens of additional appliances, such as pool pumps, battery chargers, ceiling fans, and dehumidifiers.
As a part of the proposed regulations, furnaces would be required to achieve an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) of 95 percent by 2029, indicating that manufacturers would only be able to sell furnaces that convert at least 95 percent of fuel into heat within the next six years. Currently, 80 percent AFUE is the industry standard for residential furnaces.
Noncondensing gas furnaces, which are typically less efficient but less expensive, would be primarily removed from the market as a result of the stringent AFUE requirements. However, after the implementation of the rule, consumers who replace their noncondensing furnaces with condensing furnaces are likely to incur substantial installation costs.
“By updating energy standards for many carbon-emitting appliances, such as home furnaces, the Biden administration is working to save consumers money,” Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said when the proposed changes were introduced.
“These efficiency measures not only reduce carbon and methane emissions, but also provide huge material benefits to American households in the form of cleaner air, modernized technology, and cheaper energy.”
Debate Over Gas Appliances
As the debate over gas appliances rages on, environmentalists have argued that electrification, the prohibition of natural gas connections, and the implementation of stringent energy efficiency standards could accelerate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
On May 24, the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability heard expert testimony that outlined flaws in the administration’s gas stove tests, with some asserting potential illegality on the part of the DOE’s upcoming rules of appliances.
During the hearing, Matthew Agen, Chief Regulatory Counsel for Energy at the American Gas Association, argued (pdf) that the DOE’s analysis projects minimal cost savings for consumers, amounting to a meager $1.51 per year for gas cooktops.
Agen also contended that the proposed rule violates the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) by potentially making gas cooktops unavailable in the market. He also argued that the administration exhibited a predetermined bias against gas burners compared to electric ones.
According to Agen, the procedures used by testers were inherently biased, including the use of different water quantities, skewing the results against high-input rate burners commonly found in gas cooktops.
“DOE’s Proposed Cooking Products Rule is not its only effort to limit access to gas appliances,” Agen said. “DOE currently has rule makings pending that would remove a large number of natural gas furnaces from the market and increase costs for customers, including seniors and low-income customers.”
At the same hearing, Kenny Stein, Vice President for Policy of the Institute for Energy Research, argued that the DOE violated the EPCA not only by how they’ve reported their findings but because, to make changes, the DOE would be required to prove that those changes will achieve a “significant savings of energy,” which the proposed regulation on gas stoves reportedly will not.
House at Odds
House Republicans have looked to target appliance regulation as a way of attempting to exert authority over the administrative state, The Epoch Times reported.
During a June 5 rules committee hearing, Committee Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.) pointed out, “The Constitution articulates where the laws are made. It’s here in Congress.”
Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.) had a different take, saying that the proposals by Republicans attempting to overturn the Biden administration’s regulations on appliances, and others, was a demonstration of how the Republican majority “once again prioritizes right-wing culture wars over the American people.”
Two of the four bills the committee took up during the hearing concerned regulations for gas appliances.
The Gas Stove Protection and Freedom Act would prevent the Consumer Product Safety Commission from banning or substantially raising the price of gas stoves, and the Save Our Stoves Act, would keep the DOE from implementing a proposed energy efficiency rule for gas stoves.
In May, New York passed a state budget that would phase out gas stoves in new construction. However, the Ninth Circuit moved to overturn Berkeley, California’s similar gas stove ban in new buildings in April, saying the decision should be left to the federal government.
The Department of Energy did not immediately respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment.
Nathan Worcester contributed to this report.