Joseph M. McGuire
The picture looks familiar because many of the major public policy issues will carry over from 2007. As a matter of fact, all of the areas I mentioned in my 2007 forecast—particularly product safety, climate change, and federal versus state domain on appliance regulations—are again slated for play in 2008.
Two reasons account for this. The first is that the congressional elections of 2006 returned the Congress to control by the Democratic Party. The result has been the initiation of several broad legislative reforms that, if not enacted, will certainly keep interested parties engaged throughout next year. The second is that energy and climate change have increased dramatically in importance to the public.
Climate change is another huge driver for pursuit of energy efficiency solutions at all levels of government. It presents both a challenge and opportunity for the appliance industry, which has excelled at delivering energy efficiency to consumers and utilities.
Certainly, product safety has become a very major issue in Congress amidst a flurry of product recalls, primarily Chinese toy imports, in 2007. The House and Senate have introduced major Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reauthorization legislation aimed at modernizing and providing more funding to a resource-drained commission. AHAM has represented its members on Capitol Hill and in the media to support more funding for the CPSC. At the same time, we have also been concerned that some legislation goes well beyond the problems identified as a result of the toy matter and actually could undermine the cooperative system that CPSC employs under current law to deal with product hazards.
Included in these overreaching efforts is a Senate proposal to allow each state to interpret federal product safety law, the result of which would be mass confusion for consumers, retailers, and manufacturers of any consumer product. I testified before House and Senate committees in strong support of legislation to increase CPSC resources, require testing of imported toys, and maintain the current CPSC product reporting and recall system, which has actually worked very well for the vast majority of consumer products. A measured response to the problems identified is in the best interests of the public and business.
2007 showed an increased focus on climate change, and next year promises to be a year of action and decision. As I noted last year, California signed into law a state climate change bill giving the California Air Resources Board (CARB) the authority to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Part of the CARB’s recently unveiled plan includes consideration of refrigerant and foam recovery from refrigerators and other appliances as possible regulatory means to address HFC emissions—greenhouse gases used in these appliances. AHAM is working with California and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to support research to accurately characterize the true contribution of HFCs to climate change during product service and disposal. It may well be that greater reliance on existing programs, such as service technician certification for handling of refrigerants, is the most effective approach to addressing HFC emissions in refrigerators.
The appliance industry is committed to efficiency and sustainability and, as such, we will respond with a proactive policy position solidified by technical research conducted by AHAM’s Appliance Research Consortium (ARC). ARC, through its Insulation Technical Advisory Council (ITAC), will be studying bioremediation techniques of decommissioned refrigerator foam as a way to determine the most valuable and cost-effective climate change initiatives. Appliance suppliers interested in participating in this work should contact AHAM.
AHAM has been putting considerable effort into shoring up the House and Senate energy legislation, which contains the negotiated agreement between AHAM and several environmental groups for new appliance efficiency standards, including the first-ever water standard for residential dishwashers and clothes washers. At the time I am writing this, it is uncertain whether AHAM’s final push to have Congress adopt an energy package will have been successful or whether we will spend 2008 working this same initiative. Included with the standards agreement in the energy legislation is an extension of the manufacturers’ tax credit for super-efficient appliances. This bill is worth fighting for—it is a win for industry and a win for the environment, saving 3.3 quads of energy and nearly 11 million acre-feet of water over 30 years, which is the equivalent of over two and a half years of domestic water use in the United States.