University of San Diego

San Diego Journal of Climate & Energy Law


Everyone loves energy efficiency. Among an array of carbon-reducing strategies, energy efficiency surely ranks as the least controversial. Indeed increasing energy efficiency is frequently lauded as having "net negative costs"-to use the terminology of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change-meaning that the benefits outweigh the costs, even excluding benefits from avoided climate change.
Yet the U.S. system for regulating appliances, which account for a huge percentage of the nation's carbon emissions, is a mess. Since the federal government began regulating appliance efficiency in the 1970s, the process has been characterized by frequent delays and foot-dragging, followed by lawsuits and legislative overhauls. Amidst the turmoil, a number of states have attempted to assert leadership in setting appliance standards but have often faced federal roadblocks in so doing. I suggest that a reallocation of regulatory authority to parallel our system of auto emissions regulation is in order.