Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Big Push to Clean Our Dirty Undies

Marginal Revolution airs the dirty laundry of the Department of Energy. New washing machines are not cleaning our clothes properly due to modification made to meet new federal standards that require a 21% energy reduction (according to Consumer Reports). At first I thought perhaps this is the government screwing up a market and it may actually increase energy use (if we have to rewash our clothes). I may not be so sure now, after reading this I began preparing a lecture on the Big Push model. In that model there are high costs to innovation to create new products. By requiring this new standard there is a larger payoff to inventing a cheap and energy efficient washer. So this policy might create a new and better washer where the old one would not. Honestly I’m not sure if this is good government or bad government policy, but it is important to acknowledge both possibilities. We may see similar issues arise if miles per gallons standards are implemented for cars.

Of course if you really strong believe it is not good policy you could always send the Under(wear) Secretary of Energy your undies.


Patricia said...

Obviously the washing machine lobby is not as big and powerful as the automobile lobby, because I would imagine that greater energy gains could be had by implementing better mpg standards than washing machine efficiency standards. (I just saw Who Killed the Electric Car and now I'm all riled up about the auto industry!)

Seth Gitter said...

I thought of you when I wrote this article. I always loved your t-shirt that saved "save water share a bath" with the kid and their teddy bear.