Biden Administration Flips Switch on Trump’s Inefficient Energy Policies

Graphic: Annabel Driussi for Our Daily Planet

By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer

The Biden administration announced it is reviewing the Trump administration’s energy and water efficiency rules, potentially reversing policies that loosened standards for lightbulbs, showerheads, dishwashers, and other devices. This decision builds on President Biden’s Day 1 Executive Order that directed an audit of all Trump’s “environmental” policies. 

Why this Matters: Many of former President Trump’s energy and water policies were not only bad for the environment but also cost-inefficient and burdensome for American consumers, so reversing or amending these rules could benefit customers as well as decrease emissions and water use. Kathleen Hogan, the acting Undersecretary for science and energy, emphasized in a statement that Biden will pursue policies that are guided by science: “By reviewing these rules and regulations, the Department of Energy will determine whether policy changes are necessary to lower Americans’ energy bills, create manufacturing jobs in the U.S., and cut down on polluting carbon emissions.”

Restoring Energy Efficiency

Trump consistently lambasted low-flow showerheads and LED lightbulbs throughout his political campaigns and during his Presidency. He said during a White House meeting focused on energy deregulation efforts: “The new bulb is many times more expensive, and, I hate to say it, it doesn’t make you look as good. Of course, being a vain person that’s very important to me,” he added, prompting laughter in the room. “It gives you an orange look. I don’t want an orange look. Has anyone noticed that?”

At an event in July, Trump added:  “Showerheads — you take a shower, the water doesn’t come out. You want to wash your hands, the water doesn’t come out. So what do you do? You just stand there longer or you take a shower longer? Because my hair — I don’t know about you, but it has to be perfect. Perfect.” 

Trump’s policies particularly targeted lightbulbs and showerheads.  For example, one of these measures got rid of efficiency lightbulb standards for nearly half the lightbulbs on the market. This policy made lightbulbs more expensive (costing the average household over $100 a year) and caused more pollution. The rule increased electricity use by 80 billion kilowatt-hours over the course of a year, roughly the amount of electricity needed to power every household in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Another one of these rules changed the definition of a showerhead, circumventing regulations that allowed only 2.5 gallons to flow through per minute — a measure that caused customers to have more expensive water and energy bills. In addition, the Trump administration established new rules for dishwashers, washing machines, and dryers which created loopholes for manufacturers to invent “quick-cycle” products that weren’t subject to energy efficiency regulations. 

“Consumers didn’t ask for this and consumers won’t benefit from it,” David Friedman, vice president of advocacy at Consumer Reports and a former DOE official during the Obama administration, said when the rule was first proposed.

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