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Biden’s Highway Safety Pick Has A Long History Of Pushing To Crack Down On Americans’ Appliances


President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has frequently advocated for policies intended to regulate Americans’ appliances in the name of climate goals.

Ann Carlson, NHTSA’s current acting Administrator and former University of California Los Angeles law professor, has spoken on multiple occasions about the importance of regulating appliance use in order to curb emissions, according to several public appearances. She also supported the transportation department’s 2024-26 fuel economy standards and praised policies adopted in California to crack down on gas and diesel-fueled vehicles. (RELATED: Biden’s Energy Secretary Blames ‘International And Climate Events’ For Rising Gas Prices)

For instance, during a 2009 symposium, Carlson discussed regulating appliance use in her speech, during which she said that U.S. buildings emit 10% of the country’s emissions.

“All of these appliances obviously use electricity in order to be powered and that electricity, if it’s not from a renewable source, which most of it isn’t still today, generates greenhouse gas emissions,” she explained. “Now we could solve the problem by moving away from carbon based fuels but we’re far from doing that and it’s not clear to me that we’re ever going to do it, so in the meantime I think most people would agree that an effective strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions is to improve energy efficiency.”

She then explained that while the federal government applies standards for larger appliances such as heaters, air conditioners, washing machines and water heaters, stand standards are often set for “smaller appliances” including “CD players” and “hot tub pumps.” She praised California for being a “leader in issuing stringent appliance standards prior to federal preemption.”

As NHTSA Administrator, Carlson will have the power to propose fuel efficiency standards for newly-manufactured vehicles.

The topic of appliance regulation also came up in a 2008 article she had authored that supported a “scheme” to “raise energy prices” on consumers to force “manufacturers to increase the energy efficiency of their products.” 

“In practice, though, the same market failure that led to appliance standards in the first place — a disconnect between those who buy appliances and those who pay their long term energy costs — will likely interfere with price signals sent by a carbon cap-and-trade system,” Carlson wrote in the 2008 report. “Instead, Congress should allow California to set standards more stringent than federal law in order to encourage policy innovation that, if successful, can ultimately be exported to the rest of the country.”