Latest Trump Rollback Targets Water-Saving Showerheads
The latest Department of Energy (DOE) plan follows its rollbacks on lightbulb and dishwasher standards, as well as President Donald Trump's repeated complaints about water-saving appliances. But consumer advocates say the changes are unnecessary, and would harm both the environment and American pocketbooks.
"Frankly it's silly," Appliance Standards Awareness Project Executive Director Andrew deLaski told The Associated Press. "The country faces serious problems. We've got a pandemic, serious long-term drought throughout much of the West. We've got global climate change. Showerheads aren't one of our problems."
The rollback targets a 1992 law mandating that showerheads can't release more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute. The law does not allow the DOE to set less rigorous standards, but the Trump administration has found a way around that, deLaski explained in a blog post:
The trick DOE is floating here is to try to dodge the law by reinterpreting what the word "showerhead" means.
The proposal, if finalized, would allow manufacturers to make giant showerheads with several nozzles within them. DOE proposes to accomplish this through a change in the test procedure that would characterize each of those separate nozzles as a showerhead. The full device could have as many 2.5 gallon-per-minute showerheads as the manufacturer wants. Get it?
The DOE proposal reverses an Obama-administration decision that the 2.5 gallon-per-minute rule should apply to the entire showerhead device, even if it had multiple nozzles, The Associated Press explained.
The proposed regulation follows Trump's repeated complaints about efficient appliances. Most recently, he targeted showerheads specifically in a July 16 speech on the South Lawn of the White House.
"So showerheads — you take a shower, the water doesn't come out. You want to wash your hands, the water doesn't come out. So what do you do? You just stand there longer or you take a shower longer? Because my hair — I don't know about you, but it has to be perfect. Perfect," Trump said.
The remarks built on Trump's repeated complaints about water-saving bathroom fixtures. Late last year, he claimed Americans had to flush toilets "10 times, 15 times," CNN pointed out.
In justifying the change, Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said it would allow "Americans — not Washington bureaucrats — to choose what kind of showerheads they have in their homes."
But consumer advocates said U.S. customers could already take satisfying showers using devices that meet current standards.
"There is absolutely no need to change current showerhead standards," Consumer Reports vice president of advocacy David Friedman said in a statement reported by CNN. "Thanks to the standards, consumers have access to showerheads that not only score well on CR tests and achieve high levels of customer satisfaction, but also save consumers money by reducing energy and water consumption."
DeLaski told The Associated Press that the proposed devices would end up "literally probably washing you out of the bathroom."
The proposed changes would also worsen the impacts and causes of the climate crisis, deLaski explained in his blog post.
He pointed to an April study, which found that much of the western U.S. is experiencing the first "megadrought" caused by global heating. And he noted that more water intensive showers would also mean more greenhouse gas emissions burned to heat that water.
"The new multi-nozzle showerheads would not only needlessly waste water, exacerbating shortages caused by drought, but also boost the carbon pollution that has made long-term droughts worse," he wrote. "No one benefits from this gimmick."
However, Reuters pointed out that the proposal may never come to anything. Trump faces reelection in November, and is currently behind in the polls. And if the regulation is finalized, it could be challenged in court.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
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