WASHINGTON - October 6 - The Department of Energy's new efficiency standards for home furnaces and boilers are as weak as they are tardy, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The proposed standards, which by law were due in 1994, will do little to save energy or cut costs for consumers, said Katherine Kennedy, an NRDC attorney.
"This long-overdue proposal misses the opportunity to bring home heating into the 21st Century," Kennedy said. "We need strong furnace and boiler standards to cut pollution and keep Americans warm -- without breaking the bank."
The only promising aspect of DOE's proposal is to grant states greater authority to set standards appropriate to their own climates, she said.
"The best solution remains for DOE to issue stronger national furnace standards, and the department can still do that," Kennedy said. "The next best solution, if the federal government refuses to lead, is to allow states to set tougher furnace efficiency standards that would lower energy bills and clean the air."
To date, three states -- Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont -- have passed laws to set stronger standards than the one proposed today. But those laws cannot take effect without DOE authorization, a cumbersome process at best. Under today's DOE proposal, the department is signaling that it would make it easier for states to set their own, tougher standards.
The long-overdue DOE's furnace standards proposed today came in the wake of a September 2005 lawsuit filed by NRDC, 15 states and two consumer organizations. The still-pending lawsuit alleges that DOE has repeatedly ignored deadlines requiring them to set new efficiency performance standards for air conditioners, furnaces and 20 other types of power-hungry equipment.
More efficient standards, according to Kennedy, could reduce home-heating bills by 10% or more.