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Spin Cycle

Republicans Think Your Dishwasher Is Too Leftist

Six bills to keep household appliances in the dark ages are up for consideration this week.

This image shows a dishwasher.
Martin Gerten/picture alliance/Getty Images
This dishwasher has delusions of energy efficiency. It must be stopped.

Republicans have yet to encounter a household object they won’t try to turn into a culture war. Veterans of hard-fought battles around gas stoves and hamburgers, House Republicans this week are focusing on another front: refrigerators getting too woke. In the coming days, GOP congressional leadership could consider six separate and nearly identical bills protecting hardworking Americans’ freedom to spend more money doing their chores.

The bills proposed Monday oppose energy efficiency in household appliances. Some of the bills’ names seem to have been designed strategically, like the Stop Unaffordable Dishwasher Standards Act, which shortens to SUDS. Others, like the Hands Off Our Home Appliances Act, or HOOHA, seem less so. Five of the six bills are six pages long, and all say basically the same thing: that the Department of Energy cannot enforce new standards for laundry machines, clothes dryers, refrigerators, air conditioners, and dishwashers, respectively, unless they are proven to be “technologically feasible and economically justified.” HOOHA, which is the most comprehensive of the bunch at 16 pages, would go a step further, amending the Energy and Conservation Act of 1975 “to prohibit the Secretary of Energy from prescribing any new or amended energy conservation standard for a product that is not technologically feasible and economically justified.”

First put in place in 1987 during Ronald Reagan’s administration, efficiency rules for a range of common household appliances must be updated every few years. The Department of Energy has been working its way through the updates that have come up since Biden took office, and which accumulated as backlog during the Trump administration. Last Monday, the DOE also updated the process by which it sets energy efficiency standards on appliances. New standards for residential washers and dryers, finalized in February, are projected to save consumers an estimated $1 trillion and avoid 2.5 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the next 30 years.

This might all sound like a commonsense win-win: changes that save people money, reduce emissions, and are well within the bounds of long-established federal statute. Republicans beg to differ, of course. To hear the right tell it, new appliance efficiency regulations are the equivalent of federal agents barging, guns blazing, into the homes of hardworking Americans to burgle their laundry rooms. The fact that only appliances made in 2028 or later will be subject to the new standards has, unsurprisingly, been omitted from this narrative.

The push to rile people up around a subject as mundane as energy efficiency standards for home appliances is desperate but not new. During the Trump administration, Republicans similarly circulated petitions to “Make Dishwashers Great Again,” backed by right-wing think tanks like FreedomWorks and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. If Trump wins in November, consumers should expect a more serious assault on energy-efficient appliances and all manner of federal regulations.

The bills introduced this week, though, are mostly an excuse to let Republicans stand up on C-SPAN and rattle off a bunch of talking points about the evils of shorter dishwashing cycles, or whatever else a libertarian think tank happened to hand their Groyper staffers a one-pager about. But that’s not to say this topic is random: HOOHA sponsor Debbie Lesko got $10,000 from appliance manufacturer Honeywell International’s PAC this year and $24,500 from PACs linked to electric utilities, which stand to benefit from people using more electricity. Culture wars are lucrative. Who’s to say when the GOP will find an even more implausible, uncharismatic set of objects to foam at the mouth about?