If energy efficiency is a value, why must officials mandate it?
The Department of Energy recently announced new energy efficiency regulations for commercial refrigerators, alleging the move would save American businesses billions of dollars. “By improving the energy efficiency of commercial refrigeration equipment — like restaurant-size fridges or the deli case at your local grocery store — we can make our businesses more competitive, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save money,” claimed Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. These new regulations are one small part of Moniz’s broader campaign to raise energy efficiency mandates on major home and commercial appliances.
Here is a simple question: If energy-saving appliances are so good for businesses, then why must officials like Moniz force appliance-makers to produce them?
As I have written before:
[Appliance makers] already have the incentive to focus on improving energy efficiency when it makes business sense. That is, when it leads to refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, and dryers that save consumers money [in the long run] without compromising the convenience they offer in any substantial way.
[Energy efficiency] regulations force [appliance makers] to focus on improving energy efficiency even when it does not make business sense. That is, it forces them to focus on improving energy-efficiency when [their customers may be more interested in purchasing] appliances that perform better, have more features, or are simply more affordable.