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Trump May Save Your Air Conditioner From the Deep State

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Unread 05.15.19, 04:04 PM
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Trump May Save Your Air Conditioner From the Deep State

On 05.15.19 12:38 PM posted by Ben Lieberman

It happens every spring—on the first hot day, homeownersswitch on their air conditioners that have sat idle since September, crosstheir fingers, and pray they get cold air.

For those that don’t work, the owners know they’ll soon beon the hook for a repair costing hundreds of dollars or a replacement costingthousands.

But what most don’t know is that bureaucrats in Washingtonhave been targeting home air conditioners for decades, and that theirregulations are partly responsible for the high cost of cooling off.

Thankfully, the Trump administration is holding the lineagainst any more such measures, but the deep state continues to quietly work onseveral of them.

Even the regulations that are supposed to save consumersmoney can end up costing them. For example, the Department of Energy setsefficiency standards for both central air systems and window units, which intheory will reduce electric bills.

But over the last 30 years, the agency has set multiplerounds of successively tighter standards with diminishing marginal returns, andthe last several raised the up-front cost of equipment more than many ownerswill ever earn back in the form of energy savings.

The worst of them, finalized during the Clintonadministration and taking effect in 2006, not only resulted in a sharply higherprice tag for central air conditioners—likely much higher than the EnergyDepartment-predicted $335—but also resulted in much larger components, and thushigher installation costs as more homeowners had to have walls knocked out toaccommodate them.

Not to be outdone, President Barack Obama adopted even morestringent air conditioner standards. In so doing, Energy Department bureaucratsdropped the pretense of putting consumers first by focusing on the claimedclimate change-fighting benefits of more energy-stingy cooling.

The latest standard for window units joins a growing list ofappliance regulations that even the Energy Department admits may raise theprice tag more than the energy savings—which is particularly problematic, sincewindow units are the most affordable option for low-income households.

The Trump Energy Department chose not to reverse these Obama-era air conditioner efficiency standards—which is a difficult task—but it is raising the bar on any further ones. The Energy Department is proposing that new standards can be set only if they deliver significant consumer benefits—a refreshing return to common sense.

But the legions of bureaucrats and lobbyists and activistswho make their living off an endless stream of efficiency regulations arewaiting for the next sympathetic president to roll out more pain forhomeowners.

Beyond efficiency, Washington has also found fault with therefrigerants used in these air conditioners.

Starting in the late 1980s, the most effective refrigerantswere scheduled for gradual phase-out on the grounds that they deplete theEarth’s ozone layer. The best refrigerant for cooling homes, HCFC-22, wasbanned by the Environmental Protection Agency for new equipment starting in2010.

Small amounts on this refrigerant are still made for themillions of older systems still requiring it, but even that is scheduled to endnext year.

Not surprisingly, HCFC-22 prices have jumped, from about $1per pound wholesale prior to government restrictions to around 10 times thattoday, and a residential system can require up to 15 pounds.

Higher refrigerant prices are one reason why A/C repaircosts have risen. Another is the EPA requirement that service technicians takesteps to prevent refrigerant from escaping during repairs, which is timeconsuming and requires expensive equipment.

The Obama EPA expanded these requirements, but President Donald Trump may reverse some of them.

Inevitably, the repairmen take the brunt from angrycustomers, but much of the fault really lies with federal regulators.

Things might get even worse. The “eco-friendly” alternativefor HCFC-22 used in many post-2010 air conditioners is now also being targetedby environmentalists, this time because it is a contributor to climate change.These activists have allied with opportunistic manufacturers that have patentedclimate-friendly substitute refrigerants that represent yet another step up incost.

Obama agreed to a United Nations treaty provision called theKigali Amendment, which would crack down on currently-used refrigerants infavor of these new ones, but he left office before submitting it to the Senatefor the required ratification vote.

Trump has thus far shown no interest in doing so, but careerbureaucrats and even a few on his White House team are trying to change hismind.

Trump himself has not spent any time talking or tweetingabout air conditioning, so we don’t know for certain where he stands, but hedoes have the distinction of owning far more air conditioning than any previouspresident.

Perhaps that is why he has thus far stopped the regulatory onslaught on staying cool. Let’s hope it continues.

Originally published by the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

The post Trump May Save Your Air Conditioner From the Deep State appeared first on The Daily Signal.

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