There is much concern as the new Trump Administration must now administer such well-publicized environmental standards, such as Clean Power Plan, Paris Climate Treaty, new vehicle fuel efficiency standards and more that it has inherited. The Trump Administration has been open about their disdain for many new environmental programs and their desire to abrogate or weaken them.
However, a couple of other existing USEPA and DOE programs have quietly been quite effective in reducing toxic air emissions, energy usage, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions: the corporate average fuel economy or CAFÉ standards and the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act (NAECA).
According to a recent study, CAFE standards for cars and trucks saved more energy in the US in 2014 (7.3 quadrillion BTUs) with US appliance standards coming in second at 5.3 quadrillion BTUs of energy saved in 2014.
While abandoning the US’s pledge for the Paris Climate Treaty (26-28% reduction in CO2e emissions by 2025) and repealing the Clean Power Plan (cutting CO2e emissions by about 220 million metric tons by 2030) will not be positive for energy savings and GHG emission reductions, there is certainly a movement among US consumers to save energy, and, thus, GHG emissions, as the cost of excess energy usage comes from their pockets.
Current CAFÉ standards were finalized in August 2012, highlighted by an agreement with 13 large automakers to increase fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon for cars and light-duty trucks by model year 2025. Even the immediate improvement in fuel economy for limited models has resulted in the great energy and GHG emission savings noted above. These savings will increase more rapidly as the years go on as the standards increase and more models hit the road.
Quietly, though, national appliance standards have also effectively reduced energy use and GHG emissions. The original National Appliance Energy Conservation Act of 1987 (NAECA) was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. It created uniform federal standards in response to complaints by the industry that it was difficult to keep track and comply with a myriad of different state standards. It contains minimum efficiency standards for a variety of appliances. It also prohibits manufacturers from advertising a product as meeting their energy efficiency standard unless it performed testing under federal guidelines that confirms this and that the testing is available to the public.
National appliance standards have been estimated to save the average US household about $500 per year on utility bills. In 2015, the appliance standards has been estimated to avoid 300 million tons of CO2e emissions.
The DOE has periodically updated the NAECA standards, mainly as part of the Energy Act of 2005. Over 50 consumer products are now covered by these standards. Despite being called an “Appliance” standard, NAECA covers other consumer, home-based products found in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors, such as battery chargers, pool heaters, and furnace fans. See http://www.appliance-standards.org/national. Some products have minimum energy standards found only at the state level. California, Connecticut, and Oregon have been the most aggressive, with minimum standards for televisions, DVD players, and game consoles.
Energy savings due to the NAECA has grown to 13% of electricity consumption in 2015 and 4% of natural gas consumption. And these energy savings are achieved without the consumer doing anything or investing in anything. And there is no risk of failure as the appliances will meet the standards of lower energy usage.
These savings are expected to grow in the future as future, more stringent standards will come in line for new or existing products. The USDOE has issued new standards for rooftop air conditioners and commercial warm air furnaces that are predicted to reduce energy usage by an additional estimated 5.8 quadrillion Btus over 30 years.
So while other prominent energy and environmental accords and rules have garnered a lot of publicity and have the risk of being eliminated or curtailed, the NAECA is an act that has quietly been successful in reducing a significant amount of energy for people in the residential and manufacturing areas with no loss of availability or function with no hassle or bureaucracy for the end-user. And with little or no complaint from the appliance industry. There appears no talk that it will be streamlined in the new administration. And let’s hope that the CAFE standards, the most successful government act in reducing energy usage, does not materially change, although there is some talk about that.
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