When Does “Saving” Energy Cost Energy?

The June 2007 issue of Consumer Reports has an interesting review of washers and dryers. What is striking is that the review contains evaluations of washers by major brands, such as Kenmore and Whirlpool that earn among the lowest scores ever given to a washer.

When Consumer Reports evaluates a product they give an overall score which ranges from 0 to 100. The score is intended to sum up the performance of the product. Four of the washers evaluated achieved an astoundingly low score of 25 or under. According to Consumers Reports some of the washers “left our stain-soaked swatches nearly as dirty as they were before washing.”

The explanation for this extraordinarily poor performance according to Consumer Reports is that in January of 2007 the U.S. Department of Energy required washers to use 21 percent less energy. Consumers Reports quickly adds that this is a goal that they “wholeheartedly support.”

Economists are fond of pointing out the unintended consequences of seemingly well-meaning public polices. So let’s list a few of them here: The manufacturer incurs higher costs to meet the new energy-saving goal. The consumer buys a washing machine that doesn’t work. The consumer wastes their hard-earned income. The consumer has to prematurely replace the washer that doesn’t work. The consumer washes each load several times in an attempt to clean their clothes.

All of these consequences cost energy and income. And let’s not forget the final consequence: the consumer pays taxes to support the bureaucrats that issue the regulations that cost them energy and income.


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