By Ed Ireland
Big Brother Warning: Banning gas stoves is just the start. A long list of household appliances are on the federal hit list to be either banned, made ineffective, or made too expensive to buy.
“Something is terribly wrong with the current direction of federal regulation. Not only are the number and scope of new rules out of control, but many are driven by the blind ambition to ban the use of fossil fuels without regard for the stability of the power grid or the actual health and safety of citizens.”
While EPA is finalizing rules that will essentially ban natural gas and coal-powered electricity generation, risking blackouts according to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, other federal regulators are working on plans to ban gasoline-powered portable generators. The very thing that people need when the power goes out, backup generators, will soon be back-door banned just in time for the power blackouts that the new EPA rules are poised to cause.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission, CPSC, has proposed rules and regulations that would make nearly all existing portable gas generators illegal:
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (Commission or CPSC) has preliminarily determined that there is an unreasonable risk of injury and death associated with acute carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from portable generators. To address this hazard, the Commission proposes a rule under the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) that limits CO emissions from portable generators and requires generators to shut off when specific emissions levels are reached.
While limiting CO emissions from portable generators and requiring generators to shut off when carbon monoxide emissions reach certain levels may sound reasonable, the proposed rules would remove nearly all existing portable gas generators from the market. Smaller gasoline generators would have to cut carbon monoxide emissions by 50%, and larger generators would have to cut emissions by up to 95 percent in only 6 months. Nearly all currently available models are expected to not comply with the new standard.
“Non-compliance” is the code word for bans. When the head of the CPSC, Richard Trumka, hinted that gas stoves could be banned because they were a “hidden hazard” in a January 2023 interview, the public outrage was swift, with many public figures and politicians weighing in. The Administration even trotted out President Biden to say that they would not ban gas stoves. He didn’t say that the plan was to regulate gas stoves out of existence, which technically is not a ban.
The same is true for portable gasoline generators. The CPSC will not “ban” generators; they will establish regulations that most existing generators cannot meet in time to re-engineer them into compliance. Once the proposed rules are in effect, manufacturers must comply with them in six months, thought it usually takes several years.
The regulations specifically ban manufacturers from stockpiling noncompliant generators before the new standards are enacted. In other words, the regulators know that the new rules will create an immediate shortage of generators, so they are writing regulations that guarantee shortages. Given that regulators must understand the life-and-death situations that require portable generators, this rule-making seems particularly designed to cause human suffering.
Having lived on the west coast of Florida for many years, I know full well how vital gasoline generators are. When Hurricane Charlie hit southwest Florida in August 2004, our power was out for three weeks. The only way we survived was by having gasoline generators. A generator could keep a small refrigerator running to keep some fresh food from spoiling and power a couple of fans. Southwest Florida has always been hot during the summer, regardless of what the climate change warriors say. We were hot, had no electricity, and gasoline generators kept us alive.
In a June 28, 2023, press release, Susan Orenga, executive director of the Portable Generator Manufacturers’ Association, said the CPSC 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.
The notion of a government agency implementing rules that effectively ban gas generators, especially when the US power grids have become more blackout prone due to EPA rules, is especially concerning. It would be fair to ask if these federal agencies are trying to make life miserable or harm US residents. How else can these rules be explained?
Of course, portable gasoline generators are not only used in emergencies. They are necessary equipment for many tasks, such as for construction, welders, carpenters, roofers, and many other trades, that rely on gasoline generators to do their work. In a July 6 letter to the chairman of the CPSC, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) said:
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.
Is the CPSC trying to disrupt construction and increase unemployment? They certainly are acting like it.
CPSC justifies its proposed rules by arguing that carbon monoxide emissions have been 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.
Fatalities have increased in recent years. For example, the three most recent years for which complete data are available (2017 through 2019), generator-related deaths have averaged 85 per year.
Carbon monoxide risks? Irony of ironies: the boom in home generation has something to do with government policies wounding the grid with forced substitution of intermittent wind and solar for the reliables.
An NPR report noted “concern about the reliability of an aging electrical grid at the same time as the grid is being decentralized and decarbonized with increasing amounts of renewable energy.” And those generators are fueled by natural gas or diesel, not a battery apparatus.
Something is terribly wrong with the current direction of federal regulation. Not only are the number and scope of new rules out of control, but many are driven by the blind ambition to ban the use of fossil fuels without regard for the stability of the power grid or the actual health and safety of citizens.
And now, conservation policies seem to almost bless the virtue of conservation orders and rolling blackouts.
While U.S. anti-carbon policies are sacrificing the health and safety of its citizens, China is opening two new coal-fired power-generating plants per week. These US policies have virtually no impact on total global carbon emissions. This madness has to stop.
Ed Ireland, adjunct professor at TCU’s Neeley School of Business, received his B.S. from Midwestern State University and Ph.D. from Texas Tech University. For more such posts, visit Thoughts About Energy and Economics.