WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama ordered the Department of Energy to set new energy-efficiency standards for a broad range of household appliances, with the aim of lowering Americans' energy costs and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.
Mr. Obama signed Thursday a memorandum that calls for new standards for more than two dozen appliances, including refrigerators, microwaves and dishwashers. Over 30 years, the standards are estimated to lead to an estimated $500 billion in energy-bill savings, an administration official said.
"This will save consumers money, this will spur innovation, and this will conserve tremendous amounts of energy," Mr. Obama said in a speech at the DOE. He said that over the next three decades, the new standards would allow the country to save an amount of energy equivalent to that produced by all the coal-fired power plants in the country over two years.
Andrew deLaski, head of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, an environmental, energy and consumer coalition, welcomed the move as a "dramatic change in tone." He said new standards due out June 30 for florescent light bulbs used in offices across the country "would be potentially the biggest energy-saving measure the department has ever issued."
More energy-efficient appliances would also be able to do more using less energy, resulting in power plants producing less greenhouse-gas emissions that contribute to global warming.
The memo is designed to address a series of deadlines that originated with the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 and other more recent legislation, but that have been missed due to previous administrations' failure to act.
The memo asks DOE to finalize five rules by August to cover products including ovens, lamps, vending machines and air-conditioning units. Mr. Obama asked the agency to give higher priority to standards that promise the biggest savings, and to complete them ahead of schedule.
The administration has taken other steps to address energy matters since Mr. Obama took office two weeks ago. In late January, Mr. Obama ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to consider allowing states such as California to regulate automobile emissions of greenhouse gases. On Wednesday, the Interior Department shelved a controversial plan to lease wilderness areas of Utah for oil and gas drilling.
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