The U.S. Court of Appeals has granted an Obama Administration request to reconsider efficiency standards for residential furnaces, including considering regional standards, and the administration plans to issue a new rule by May 1, 2011. Earlier action may be possible because much of the work done for the 2007 rule could be quickly updated for the new standard.
The case was brought to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) by several states as well as environmental and consumer groups, and was decided yesterday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) estimates that a stronger standard for residential furnaces would save at least enough gas to heat four out of every five U.S. homes for one year, net about $11 billion in direct consumer savings, and cut global warming pollution by the amount emitted by 25 million cars in a year.
During the Bush Administration, the U.S. DOE set standards at 80% efficiency. States and nonprofit organizations sued DOE after the agency issued this "extraordinarily weak" standard in November 2007. ACEEE said the 2007 final rule hardly changed the standards for gas furnaces relative to the standards set by Congress in 1987.
The Obama Administration will now consider new standards of at least 90%. The order enables DOE to reconsider all aspects of the earlier final rule, including the strength of the standards and the implementation date.
The order specifically indicates that regional standards will be considered. Legislation enacted by Congress after the 2007 final rule made it clear that DOE can establish regional furnace standards.
However, regional appliance standards have met with industry opposition in the past. Industry fears that a nationwide patchwork of inconsistent standards will result in higher costs for designing, certifying, distributing, and selling products and will result in a limiting of consumer product choices and higher overall costs to consumers.
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