Right-wing media, led by Fox News, is sustaining an outrage campaign around efforts to update household appliances by casting newer, more energy-efficient products as inferior, expensive, and part of a larger scheme to control every aspect of American life under the banner of climate action.
In January, the network led a national panic around the potential regulation of gas stoves. In March, Fox hosts freaked out about proposed standards for washing machines – repeatedly making the false claim that the Department of Energy’s new efficiency standards would somehow make Americans “dirtier and stinkier.” Fox and other right-wing media outlets also attacked new standards proposed in March to make air conditioners more efficient. The Department of Energy estimates the air conditioning standards will save consumers $1.5 billion per year on electricity bills, but The New York Post concluded that regulations seem “calculated to make your life worse” and one Fox News contributor claimed that rather than cost savings the standards were intended to hurt Texans, noting, “That's what makes Texas what it is. Without air conditioners, Texas people couldn't live there.”
A wave of proposed efficiency standards by the Department of Energy in early May, including standards for dishwashers, have provided Fox News and other right-wing media outlets with more fodder to push misinformation about appliance standards and false narratives about how these proposals fit into the Biden administration and climate movements’ objective to control every aspect of American life.
As more standards are expected, such as the imminent update to household water heaters, the right-wing media will likely continue to agitate around its manufactured war on appliances.
Fox has repeatedly hammered Biden on energy cost and supply — appliance standards address both of these issues
Energy efficient appliances reduce household energy costs while reducing energy demand. The latest proposed standards that will apply to dishwashers are estimated to save consumers approximately $168 million per year on their utility bills. The Department of Energy’s proposed and planned standards, taken together, are expected to save Americans “$570 billion and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 2.4 billion metric tons cumulatively over 30 years.”
The standards save consumers money because appliances that adhere to them use less energy, which also means less demand on the grid. Taken altogether, “by 2050, peak electricity demand could be reduced by almost 90 gigawatts, which is equivalent to about 13% of current total peak demand." According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, air conditioner standards in particular can help ease the strain on our power system “since much of their operation coincides with peak demand periods.” Our grid, which Fox and other right-wing media claim is vulnerable because of climate policies, would benefit from standards that reduce demand. But Fox not only doesn’t acknowledge how consumers and the grid could benefit from energy efficiency, in some cases they criticize the efficient appliances and caution about the U.S. electrical grid in the same segment.
For example, during a segment on the Environment Protection Agency’s proposed regulations for power plants on the May 12 edition of The Ingraham Angle, host Laura Ingraham and fossil fuel shill Daniel Turner presented efficient appliances as dysfunctional while also suggesting Biden’s policies would all but guarantee blackouts: “Don't you think, Daniel, that is a really powerful campaign argument to defeat Biden. He's coming for your gas stove, he is coming for your refrigerator, AC and obviously you're going to have to have built into your normal life a series of blackouts every season.” Turner also joined Fox & Friends in a similar segment focused on the power grid on May 9 – after co-host Rachel Campos-Duffy discussed the energy reduction from the proposed new dishwasher standards she disassociated the role of efficiency from grid stability saying, “Before we get to talking about how green appliances don't work, let’s first talk about the national grid because there is a strain on that, as we make this, I think, premature transition to electric.”
Fox is leading the right-wing media’s meltdown over updated efficiency standards for appliances
On May 7, The Washington Times published a special report on Biden’s appliances standards which relied heavily on industry spokespeople, who mainly argue that the standards are too stringent, will hurt consumers, and sacrifice performance. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board weighed in on performance as well claiming the new standards would mean having to rewash dishes, quipping, “Did you enjoy last night’s spaghetti, still crusted on the plate? Now you can taste it twice.” Fox has also latched onto this idea of reduced performance, suggesting that standards, such as those proposed for dishwashers, will lead to consumers having to run the dishwasher twice in order to get dishes clean or hand wash dishes. But according to consumer experts, this argument does not hold water. The Appliance Standards Awareness Project, notes that both Consumer Reports and Wirecutter dispel this claim:
Wirecutter has found that “most dishwashers can completely clean a big load of greasy, starchy, kind-of-crusty dishes as long as you use a decent detergent and rinse aid.” Several of today’s models that already meet the proposed efficiency standards have five-star cleaning performance ratings from Consumer Reports.
Additionally, Fox has used the proposed efficiency standards (which have been updated regularly for decades) to push its ongoing hysteria related to climate policies – claiming they are crafted to control the population and restrict personal liberties rather than address climate change. While the new standards are estimated to make cuts in America’s climate change-causing emissions, they also fulfill the congressional mandate which states that appliance efficiency standards must be revisited every 6 years. In fact, when Biden entered office, the Department of Energy had already missed 28 deadlines for considering new standards, 26 of which passed during the Trump administration.
- Fox Digital also fearmongered about the standards in a piece titled, “Biden administration's war on appliances is just getting started." Ben Lieberman, a senior fellow at the fossil fuel-backed and Koch-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute, claimed: “Consumers aren't going to like any of it. These rules are almost always bad for consumers for the simple reason that they restrict consumer choice.” [FoxNews.com, 5/12/23]
- Fox anchor Sandra Smith on the May 12, edition of America Reports introduced a segment on appliance standards by saying: “Is there nothing sacred that big brother will not try to control in the name of going green? First it was your gas stove, and then your dishwasher and now the air?” [Fox News, America Reports, 5/12/23]
- In a segment on the Biden administration’s new power plant regulations on the May 12 edition of America’s Newsroom, guest Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Media Steve Forbes spoke to the power plant rules and recent appliance standards proposals to cast climate policies as “the biggest power grab in American history." He continued, “They’re not going through Congress. They are destroying an industry. They’re taking over industries. Every modern convenience, they’re making sure you can't use, whether it’s dishwashers, washing machines, air conditioners, and gas stoves. It is an unprecedented power grab and they have no justification for it.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 5/12/23]
- Fox host Sean Hannity introduced a segment on the “war on appliances” during the May 10 edition of his show by suggesting that appliance standards make appliances like dishwashers inefficient, while later claiming that rather than addressing climate change, the standards attack freedom: “Now, feeling the pressure from the radical climate alarmists religious cult, the Biden administration is now turning up the heat in their war against appliances. This time they're coming for your dishwasher with horrible new restrictions. But clean dishes are not their only target. Be careful of salmonella, by the way.” [Fox News, Hannity, 5/10/23]
- The Five panel also claimed that the efficiency standards would reduce performance, co-host Greg Gutfeld mockingly suggested that “liberals want to get rid of mechanical dishwashers and return to the human kind, hence their embrace for cheap, illegal labor. Who needs to buy a Westinghouse when you can get somebody from, I don’t know, Colombia?” [Fox News, The Five, 5/9/23]
- The Outnumbered panel criticized dishwasher regulations and claimed that consumers “will have to run their machines more than once to get everything clean.” Campos-Duffy called the appliance standards a “war on modern life.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 5/9/23]
- Harris Faulkner on the May 9 edition of the Faulkner Focus claimed that the “changes may force you to run your dishwasher more often and that will be just to get the dishes clean,” which would “end up costing you more money.” [Fox News, Faulkner Focus, 5/9/23]
- During a segment on the new appliance standards, America’s Newsroom ran a chyron claiming, “Climate Change Policies Increasing Household Costs,” while Fox contributor Kat Timpf repeated the claim that upgrades for dishwashers would require consumers to “run it again” to get dishes clean. [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 5/9/23]
- Campos-Duffy on Fox & Friends claims that new standards are a “war on modern life; it’s a war on families and frankly, for a mom like me, I think it’s a war on women who have to deal with a lot of this stuff, appliances that used to make us free, get things done efficiently in our home, not anymore.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/9/23]
- Fox host Laura Ingraham also claimed that the appliances standards “all in the name of a green agenda” would lower performance: “It actually gets worse: washer-dryers and refrigerators are reportedly on the DOE's target next. Nothing is safe. Cascade won't help you, none of those products are going to help you, just do it by hand. We never had a dishwasher growing up.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 5/8/23]
- Conservative commentator Grace Curley on Fox & Friends First: “When you listen to the manufacturers of these products they’re saying this is going to decrease efficiency and this is going to increase the cost to manufacture these products, which then gets passed on to consumers. … In Joe Biden’s mind, in the left’s mind that’s a really small price to pay to check off a box that maybe will appease the climate activists in this country. … They don’t really care if it makes things more expensive and less efficient for the American people.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends First, 5/8/23]
- Fox News contributor Lisa Boothe argued that appliance standards are “a middle finger to Americans,” claiming that the government is “going to invade your home, take away your gas stoves, your dishwasher, we own you. I mean that’s basically the message they’re trying to send. I mean this isn't about the climate. … The objective actually isn't to reduce emissions, it's not to reduce temperatures, it's not to do any of these things. The objective is societal control. And climate is a means to accomplish that goal.” [Fox News, The Big Sunday Show, 5/7/23]