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issue: July 2008 APPLIANCE Magazine

Appliance Line
Speaking with a Big Voice

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Tim Somheil, Editor

AHRI has provided the HVAC/R industry with a more united voice much needed for a future likely to be steered by environmental fervor and global warming legislation.

Tim Somheil, Editor

The event in Colorado Springs, CO, U.S., May 17–20, 2008, had originally been scheduled as the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association’s annual meeting. Then came the January merger of GAMA with the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute, and the meeting was repositioned as the AHRI’s first spring meeting. It was a bigger event, with more attendees and a broader scope, than any GAMA gathering in past years and decades. But the market and the issues facing HVAC/R are also bigger and more complicated.

There’s serious business for this newly formed association to take care of—and soon. The merger’s overriding purpose was to create a stronger voice for the HVAC/R industry. Writing in a spring meeting welcome letter, AHRI CEO Jack Klimp (formerly president of GAMA) and AHRI president Stephen Yurek (formerly president of ARI) said,  “Now that we are one industry with one voice, we will have the opportunity to more effectively demonstrate our industry’s commitment to quality, innovation, and environmental stewardship.”

AHRI will put substantial resources into government affairs, challenging regulations that it sees as unwarranted and burdensome to the industry and/or consumers. It will also continue an active program of political outreach. Events are designed to put OEMs and Washington lawmakers in the same room, creating the opportunity for dialog and productive relationships. Don Davis, AHRI’s vice president of government affairs, told meeting attendees that his office wants Washington lawmakers to consider the impact of their laws on the U.S. industry, and to make those considerations before they sponsor legislation.

It’s also invaluable for the industry to understand where lawmakers are coming from. At AHRI’s 2008 Public Policy Symposium, attendees heard from members of Congress on both ends of the political spectrum—some see global warming as unproven or a nonissue; others want immediate and significant action to address global warming.

Davis reported to AHRI attendees that, largely because of media hype, the global warming issue has become the No. 1 public policy topic in Washington and globally. As a result, a number of proposals for climate-change legislation will eventually come before the U.S. Congress, and dealing with them may be AHRI’s most significant undertaking in the near future.

AHRI doesn’t expect any global warming legislation to pass in the current session. This legislation will be in the hands of the new administration.

And the Winner Will Be…

AHRI brought in an authority on U.S. elections, Charlie Cook, to comment on the election. Despite his impressive credentials as a political analyst, Cook wasn’t about to make any predictions.

He noted that every election has its surprises. “But I haven’t seen…an election quite like this one,” Cook said.

The candidates themselves are remarkable. John McCain was the front-runner, his campaign nearly disintegrated, and then he came back to be the Republican nominee. Barack Obama, an African-American with little political experience, overcame even Hillary Clinton’s political machine to become the Democratic nominee.

“If this were all a political novel, you would have put it down after the second or third chapter as being totally implausible—on both sides,” Cook said.

Cook said one of the most closely watched measurements in election years is the “Dow Jones Indicator”—the number of people who feel the country is headed in the right direction. At the time of Cook’s address to the AHRI meeting, 28% thought the country was headed in the right direction, 66% thought it was headed in the wrong direction. Conventional wisdom says those poll results should translate into fewer votes for the current leader’s party. The current president’s consistently low popularity should also point to a Republican loss.

But, as Cook told AHRI attendees, the twists and turns of this election have already tripped up political analysts—himself included. Indicators can’t be trusted. Not this time.

Cook did go so far as to say that John McCain would likely receive as many votes as Bush got in the 2004 presidential election. If so, the question becomes whether Barack Obama will get as many votes as John Kerry did in 2004—or continue motivating higher Democratic voter turnout and come in with what Cook called a “Kerry-plus” vote.

The answer may significantly impact AHRI activities in the years to come.


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