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Biden Admin Rule Would Ban Nearly All Portable Gas-Powered Generators

Biden Administration Rule Would Ban Nearly All Portable Gas-Powered Generators
After seeking to reduce the use of gas stoves, the Biden administration is pushing a proposal to ban the sale of almost all portable gas generators—which some experts have said would be disastrous for the millions of Americans who rely on such generators during power outages.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has proposed a policy (pdf) that would remove nearly all existing portable gas generators from the market. The new rule restricts the amount of carbon monoxide that generators can emit by forcing these generators to switch off when they reach a certain level of emissions.
Smaller gas generators would have to cut carbon monoxide emissions by 50 percent, and larger generators would have to cut emissions by up to 95 percent. Nearly all models currently available are expected to not be in compliance with the new standard.
Once the proposed rules come into effect, manufacturers would have to comply with them in just six months, a process that usually takes several years. The rules would also ban manufacturers from stockpiling noncompliant generators before the new standards are enacted.
Generator Manufacturers Speak Out
In a June 28 press release, Susan Orenga, executive director of the Portable Generator Manufacturers’ Association, pointed out that CPSC’s proposal will “create a shortage of essential portable generators during regional and national emergencies because it will prevent the sale of portable generators that are currently available on the market.”
“Furthermore, the timing of the CPSC’s proposed changes are particularly concerning, given repeated warnings that two-thirds of North America is currently facing an energy shortfall this summer during periods of high demand,” she said.
Nearly 5 million households across the United States use gas powered generators during power outages, and they are particularly important during hurricane season, when powerful storms often knock out electric utilities.
In May, the North American Electric Reliability Corp. warned that two-thirds of North America could face blackouts and brownouts between June and September if there are “wide area” heat waves, wildfires, and droughts, and the agency attributed some blame for the problem to the Biden administration’s push for renewable energy.
The CPSC proposal came after the Department of Energy unveiled its Energy Policy and Conservation Program in February, which aims to establish new standards on consumer cooking products, including gas stoves. The rules are expected to ban the sale of at least half of U.S. stove models.
The Department of Energy is also focusing efforts on mandating standards for dishwashers.
In a bid to improve efficiency and cut energy usage, the agency has proposed new regulations for power and water usage for standard-size and compact dishwashers during their regular cycles.
“This Administration is using all of the tools at our disposal to save Americans money while promoting innovations that will reduce carbon pollution and combat the climate crisis,” Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said in a statement about the regulations.
Emission Harms and Safety Standards
The CPSC is justifying its proposed new rules by arguing that carbon monoxide (CO) emissions have been extremely harmful to human health.
“From 2004 through 2021, there were at least 1,332 CO-related consumer deaths involving portable generators, or an average of about 74 lives lost annually, with thousands of non-fatal poisonings of consumers per year,” the CPSC report reads.
“Fatalities have increased in recent years. For example, for the three most recent years for which complete data are available (2017 through 2019), generator-related CO deaths have averaged 85 per year.”
CPSC expects the proposed rule to prevent 2,148 deaths over 30 years.
In its press release, the manufacturers association points out that more than 300 portable generator models across 35 brands already comply with a voluntary safety standard and implement a carbon monoxide detection and automatic shutoff feature.
Such voluntary standards prevent more than 98 percent of fatalities that could have resulted from the misuse of portable generators, it stated.
Ms. Orenga said, “[The CPSC proposal] could lead to higher costs for consumers and create unintended consequences of more safety concerns of fires and burns, as we do not believe that the CPSC has adequately evaluated the safety hazards of their newly proposed rule.”
In a July 6 letter to the chairman of the CPSC, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) mentioned another potential consequence of the proposed rule: “Engine-driven portable welders are a vital piece of equipment for construction workers across the country. These welders are not consumer products, but rather industrial machinery used on construction sites.”
Finalizing the CPSC rule in its present form “will not only have a detrimental effect on manufacturers of these products and their suppliers, but also negatively impact the welders who rely on this equipment,” he wrote.