“DOE acknowledged that if non-condensing gas appliances were eliminated, there would likely be extensive problems (e.g., economics and safety); especially in the case of existing buildings whose venting systems are not designed for lower vent temperatures associated with condensing furnaces and water heaters.”
The energy-efficiency intelligensia argues that that if DOE were to go ahead with its “tentative” conclusions, non-condensing gas appliances would survive and even thrive to hurt consumers and the climate. Don’t believe the demand-side Malthusians.
Last week at MasterResource, I posted a comment to “Waste? Speak for Yourself (energy appliance mandates anti-consumer, pro-bureaucrat)” that described the close relationships between the energy-use activists and DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE). My post today explains the gas-industry petition that continues to trigger the statist energy planners.
On October 18, 2018, a coalition of natural gas and propane interests petitioned the Department of Energy DOE to formally recognize that the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 (“EPCA”) specifies that DOE is not allowed to eliminate classes of consumer appliances in its never-ending quest to improve “energy efficiency” per 1) U.S.C. §§ 6295(o)(4) and 2) 6313(a)(6)(B)(iii)(II)(aa) which respectively states (with emphasis added):
Note the word in bold “performance” is followed by the word “including” rather than the phrase ‘limited to’. The gas industry petition made the claim that the ability of furnaces to perform in conjunction with existing (non-condensing) venting systems is a performance feature.
DOE published the gas industry petition in the Federal Register on November 1, 2018, for public review and input. On July 11, 2019, DOE subsequently published a proposed interpretive rule in the Federal Register, which “tentatively” determined that in the context of residential furnaces, commercial water heaters and similarly-situated products/equipment, use of non-condensing technology (and associated venting) may constitute a performance-related “feature” under EPCA.
Simply put, DOE acknowledged that if non-condensing gas appliances were eliminated, there would likely be extensive problems (e.g., economics and safety); especially in the case of existing buildings whose venting systems are not designed for lower vent temperatures associated with condensing furnaces and water heaters.
Of course, the energy-usage campaigners were beside themselves with derision for such possibilities. Behind their mock lamentations was the basic sentiment that if DOE were to go ahead with its tentative conclusions, they would never be able to get rid of non-condensing gas appliances. And furthermore, this would both simultaneously and significantly deprive both consumers and the climate.
Fast forward more than a year to September 24, 2020: Instead of finalizing its tentative conclusions, DOE “determined to consider a more involved class structure which turns on maintenance of compatibility with existing venting categories” and sought additional comments on that basis. The deadline for comments was November 9th, 2020.
New Industry Comments
Essentially, the “gas industry” comments stated that was all well and good after DOE makes their “tentative” conclusions final (see here). I
(But good luck navigating the horrendous beta version of regulation.gov. However, the beta site can be avoided by going to regulations.gov other than Tuesdays or Thursdays. Then, search for the Docket number: EERE–2018–BT– STD–0018. By doing so, you can see other comments, including manufacturers, who generally side with the gas industry.)
In making their comments on November 9, the gas industry recognized the need to keep its requests simple so Trump appointees could act on it in this period of turmoil. The following day, E&E Daily published this article WHITE HOUSE: Trump eyes midnight energy rules at DOE, Interior — Tuesday, November 10, 2020 (behind a paywall). Excerpt:
Critics of Trump’s efficiency policies, meanwhile, are particularly concerned with a rule that they believe would allow furnaces and water heaters that waste energy to remain on the market.
The above word “believe” links to an American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) blog article titled: Trump administration moves closer to ensuring many furnaces, water heaters keep wasting gas.
Interestingly, the ACEEE blog post was published the same day that DOE published its request for yet more comments. Coincidence or collaboration? You decide (after reading my comment to Rob’s article on November 11th). Regardless, anytime EERE tries to side with consumers, it seems that the “energy efficiency” crowd see it as yet another reason to litigate. After all, that’s what they do.
Finally, regarding the “energy efficiency” advocates of “wasted energy” associated with non-condensing furnaces, that energy is safety energy to assure the products of combustion are sufficiently buoyant to exit the ductwork in order to avoid the danger of vent corrosion and the potential eventuality of carbon monoxide escaping within the building. Regardless, the real purpose of such advocates is to phase out the direct use of natural gas and on to electricity under the guise of “energy efficiency, deep decarbonization and beneficial electrification.” See my “category” below for more information.
It should also be noted that the “energy efficiency” advocates, led by the NRDC, initiated litigation to force DOE to finalize rulemaking that would include the ban of non-condensing appliances (as the dockets presently stand). For more information see:14 states, advocacy groups sue DOE over failure to update 25 appliance efficiency standards.
So where does it go from here? I’m not omniscient enough to predict. However, sooner or later, DOE will publish Final Rules and the “gas industry” will then need to decide whether to litigate (under provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act) or capitulate. The latter should not and cannot be chosen. Pro-choice and pro-consumer is a winning strategy over time–and the free society deserves no less.
Mark Krebs, an engineer by training, has been involved with energy efficiency design and program evaluation for more than thirty years. He has served as an expert witness in dozens of energy-efficiency filings, which he first summarized in a Public Utilities Fortnightly article, “It’s a War Out There: A Gas Man Questions Electric Efficiency” (December 1996). For more about by Mark, see his category archives here.