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Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm unveiled new climate and efficiency restrictions on air conditioners despite widespread criticism the Biden administration received after officials recently announced restrictions on gas stoves.
The new energy efficiency standards, which will apply to room air conditioners and portable air cleaners, will enter into effect next year. The Energy Department contended that the new rules will assist with “tackling the climate crisis,” as well as save consumers $25 billion over the next three decades. Room air conditioners are more commonly called window air conditioners.
“Today’s announcement builds on the historic actions President Biden took last year to strengthen outdated energy efficiency standards, which will help save on people’s energy bills and reduce our nation’s carbon footprint,” Granholm said in a press release. She added that the Energy Department will “continue to engage with our public and private sector partners to finalize additional proposals like today’s that lower household energy costs and deliver the safer, healthier communities that every American deserves.”
The rules are the first federal standards for portable air cleaners. The Energy Department asserted that the regulations mark a consensus among “manufacturers, the manufacturing trade association, efficiency advocates, consumer advocacy groups, states, and utilities.”
The policies come weeks after multiple senior officials in the Biden administration repeatedly backtracked on new energy efficiency standards for gas stoves amid mounting criticism. Controversy over the potential regulations emerged earlier this year when Consumer Product Safety Commission Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. said in an interview that gas stoves are a “hidden hazard” and declared that “any option is on the table” for a nationwide ban. Consumer Product Safety Commission Chairman Alex Hoehn-Saric later posted a statement asserting that neither he nor the agency planned to outlaw gas stoves.
The Energy Department then unveiled forthcoming efficiency standards which would impact approximately “half of the total gas cooking top market.” Proposed regulations would introduce a new “maximum integrated annual energy consumption” standard for gas stoves, marking a change from previous regulations that prohibited constant burning pilot lights in gas stoves, but placed no limits on energy consumption. Officials noted that “products achieving these standard levels are already commercially available for all product classes covered by this proposal” and cited “important and robust” climate benefits in documents justifying the new rules.
Some 38% of households in the United States use gas stoves for cooking, with the figure approaching 70% for states such as California and New Jersey, according to data from the Energy Information Administration. Those who use gas stoves often cite the easier temperature control offered by the appliances relative to electric alternatives.
Granholm defended the consideration of new efficiency standards for gas stoves during remarks this week before the House Appropriations Committee. “This does not impact the majority, and it certainly does not say that anybody who has a gas stove would have their gas stove taken away,” she told lawmakers. “There’s no ban on gas stoves. I have a gas stove. It is just about making the existing electric and gas stoves, and all the other appliances, more efficient.”