When we last updated this promise, President Obama had issued a memo that ordered the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to speed up its promulgation of new rules regarding federal appliance energy efficiency standards.
The DOE is tasked with issuing such standards on appliances to ensure that such devices use energy efficiently and thereby save U.S. consumers money. The DOE now issues standards for over 50 different categories of appliances. During the 1990s the DOE fell drastically behind in updating its energy standards. Congress sought to address these deficiencies through legislation such as the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT), and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA). The DOE also is subject to a consent decree that came out of a 2006 court case. The decree established a schedule that the DOE must follow for the publication of standards for all backlogged products.
Despite these efforts, by the time President Obama took office in 2009, there was still a significant backlog.
In his February 2009 memo, Obama requested:
(a) the DOE take all necessary steps, consistent with the consent decree, EPACT, and EISA, to finalize legally required efficiency standards as expeditiously as possible and consistent with all applicable judicial and statutory deadlines. Such standards include, most immediately, those covered by the five energy efficiency rules with deadlines prior to and including August 8, 2009;
In September 2009, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that the DOE had met this deadline, with the last of the fives rules being published in the Federal Register on August 7, 2009. Taken together, the DOE estimates that these regulations will prevent the emission of approximately 1.1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. These five energy efficiency standards included:
• Dishwashers and incandescent lamps.
• Microwaves and kitchen ovens.
• Fluorescent and incandescent reflector lamps.
• Air conditioning equipment
• Beverage vending machines.
In November 2010, the Department of Energy outlined a plan to speed up its approval process. This included dropping unnecessary steps in the rulemaking process, shortening rulemaking documents and establishing a negotiating committee. This last reform is meant to foster an agreement with stakeholders and the public to speed up the establishment of rules and mitigate delay.
Have these changes made the approval process faster? Yes, according to the Department of Energy. An October 2010 DOE report stated: "Since President Obama came to office, DOE has issued or codified new efficiency standards for more than twenty different products, which will save consumers between $250 and $300 billion on their energy bills through 2030.” The DOE also contends that it has met all of its appliance efficiency deadlines since President Obama took office.
Likewise funding has increased for the program. In his FY2012 budget request, President Obama requested $70 million for the office of appliance energy standards. This is up from $35 million in FY2010 and 2011 and up from $22 million in FY2008.
We interviewed Steven Nadel, Executive Director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), to get an outside opinion on the issue. He agreed that the Department of Energy has been doing a generally good job of issuing standards and meeting deadlines.
This is not to say, however, that the Department of Energy still doesn't run into delays in issuing standards. Regulations can sometimes be delayed under Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). A division of the Office of Management and Budget, OIRA's job is to analyze regulations before they are published in the Federal Register. Regulations for all agencies must go through this process. Nadel pointed out that refrigeration standards were submitted to OIRA last fall and were set to be issued in January 2011. Yet, as of the end of July 2011, nothing had happened on this issue. Similarly the Department of Energy was supposed to issue standards for for external power supplies and battery chargers by July 1, 2011. According to Nadel, the Department of Energy did not submit the standards to OIRA until July 19.
Under Secretary Chu the Department of Energy not only met the requests made by President Obama, but also implemented reforms to hasten the issuance of regulations. This goes a long way toward requiring more energy efficient appliances. There are some hiccups in the process, but generally speaking the DOE seems to be getting the job done. We rate this Promise Kept.