Want to see what's wrong with the newly enacted energy bill?
Just take a look at your toilet.
If it's a low-flush toilet, that is. These water-stingy models
were mandated under the 1992 Energy Policy Act. After the
provisions took effect in 1994, millions of Americans remodeling
their bathrooms came in for an unpleasant surprise. Many of the new
water-saving toilets cost more and performed worse than the ones
they replaced. Homeowners complained that they had to flush more
than once, which, in addition to being annoying, cut into the water
conservation purpose behind the law. It took many years before the
bugs were worked out of the new toilets, and there are still plenty
of unhappy flushers out there.
Or look at your grocery bill. Thanks to the 2005 energy law,
agricultural-based renewable fuels, mostly ethanol derived from
corn, must be mixed into the gasoline supply. The mandate has
raised the cost of driving, since ethanol-containing blends have
lower fuel economy. Worse, the diversion of significant amounts of
corn to ethanol production has led to a near-doubling of corn
prices, in turn leading to higher prices for food items such as
corn-fed meat and dairy products. An Iowa State University study
estimates that the ethanol provisions have raised food prices by
$47 annually per capita.
The latest energy bill continues in this tradition by being
filled with provisions likely to backfire in the years ahead.
Though it mercifully left toilets alone, the law does have
convoluted efficiency requirements impacting light bulbs, boilers,
refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes washers and air conditioners.
It's only a matter of time before one or more of these provisions
lead to new consumer headaches.
Worst of all, the new law includes a five-fold increase in the
amount of ethanol that must be added to the gasoline supply, from
7.5 billion gallons per year to 36 billion. The current mandate is
bad enough, but the new one could set records for pain at the pump
and at the supermarket.
There shouldn't be any mystery why these laws fail. They all
involve Congress trying to force the public into using something
the marketplace has rejected. If newfangled toilets or increased
ethanol usage actually made sense, they would catch on without
heavy-handed government mandates. Ditto the required modifications
More often than not, this kind of government interference with
the free market works to the detriment of consumers. Washington may
think it is passing energy bills, but all it's really doing is
proving the law of unintended consequences.
Ben Lieberman is
a senior policy analyst in the Roe Institute for Economic Policy
Studies at The Heritage
First appeared in FOXNews.com
Want to see what's wrong with the newly enacted energy bill? Just take a look at your toilet.
Senior Policy Analyst, Energy and Environment
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