Midnight Greenhouse Regulations

by William Yeatman on December 26, 2000

in Blog

Theyre called midnight regulations – the flood of federal regulatory activity occurring in the closing months of an administration. Though a bipartisan phenomenon, the pre-inauguration day rush to finalize pending rules is particularly pronounced in Democratic administrations that know that Republicans will replace them.

Professor Jay Cochran of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University has studied midnight regulations extensively, and concludes that the last-minute regulatory binge under Clinton is rivaled in number and scope only by the Carter administration at the end of 1980.

Included in the 100 or more such measures are several designed to combat global warming. For example, the Department of Energy (DOE) is in the process of finalizing new energy efficiency standards for clothes washers and central air conditioners.

By DOEs own estimates, the rules will add at least $200 to the cost of a new clothes washer and $274 for an air conditioner. DOE claims that, by reducing demand for residential electricity, these standards will result in lower carbon dioxide emissions. However, the impact is likely to be minor.

According to energy consultant Glenn Schleede, DOEs estimates of carbon emissions reductions are approximately 11/100 of 1 percent for air conditioners and 18/100 of 1 percent for clothes washers. On a cost per ton basis, these rules are two of the most expensive carbon reduction strategies yet proposed.

It is difficult, but not impossible to undo a finalized rule. However, only time will tell if the new Congress and Administration will make the effort to review, and possibly rescind, these and other midnight regulations.

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