Biden Administration Releases Energy Efficient Standards for Gas Furnaces

The Biden administration released finalized energy efficient standards for residential gas furnaces on Friday, September 29, and they come with a high cost for many households.

The Department of Energy (DOE) expects the rules to slash household utility bills from gas furnace use by $1.5 billion annually and reduce pollution.

By 2028, residential gas furnaces will be required to provide an annual fuel utilization efficiency of 95 percent. This means that a furnace must convert 95 percent of its fuel into heat. The current market standard for annual fuel utilization efficiency is 80 percent, and it was last updated in 2007, Fox News Digital reported

The announcement from the DOE states:

“At the direction of Congress, DOE is continuing to review and finalize energy standards for household appliances, such as residential furnaces, to lower costs for working families by reducing energy use and slashing harmful pollutants in homes across the nation,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “Today’s measure, along with this Administration’s past and planned energy efficiency actions, underscores President Biden’s commitment to save Americans money and deliver healthier communities.” 

Furnaces account for approximately 19 percent of residential energy use annually.  With the updated efficiency standards, the Department of Energy predicts 332 million metric tons of carbon emissions will be cut over 30 years. This, they say, means savings in 34 percent of homes in the United States. The Department also expects to see a cut in methane emissions by 4.3 million tons, which they claim is roughly equivalent to emissions from 29 coal plants.  

The more energy efficient furnaces are more expensive than the ones they will replace on the market, and they are costly to install, FoxNews reported. 

“They’re going to have to, in many cases, install new equipment to exhaust gas out of their home. These higher efficiency units, or so-called condensing units — a lot of consumers have them in their home, but a lot of consumers don’t,” Richard Meyer, the vice president of energy markets, analysis, and standards at the American Gas Association told Fox News. “So, this rule would require additional retrofits for a lot of consumers. And those retrofits can be extremely cost prohibitive.”

Couple worried about finances

(Mikhail Nilov/ Pexels)

Last month, Breitbart News reported that the Biden Administration’s green energy standards for ceiling fans could put 30% of manufacturers out of business. Those ceiling fan rules came after gas stove and water heater regulations. 

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Dem Rep. Stevens: I Worry About Union, Wage Provisions Being 'Cut Out' in Implementing Inflation Reduction Act

On Friday’s edition of Bloomberg’s “Sound On,” Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI) stated that it’s “frustrating as a lawmaker when we pass these laws, and then they go to be implemented, around infrastructure, around the Inflation Reduction Act, we’ve got union provisions, prevailing wage provisions in there, and then, somehow, they get cut out as the deals go forward.” And that more stringent requirements are needed.

Host Joe Mathieu asked, [relevant exchange begins around 11:10] “I see, Congresswoman, that you’ve reintroduced a bill to protect union workers in federal vehicle contracts. The [Union Auto Workers] Job Protection Act would require federal contract bidders to disclose all plant locations, interestingly, where vehicles will be made, along with some other details. To what extent are the Big Three exposed to federal contracts?”

Stevens responded, “They are somewhat. … This bill came about because of the contract awarded to Oshkosh Defense industries around the Postal Service truck vehicles. They were supposed to be made with union labor, the contract gets awarded, midway through, they decide, well, we don’t have the capacity here, so, we’re going to move this to a non-union shop. We certainly could see something like this pertain to the Big Three. And that would actually be a great day, because they’re unionized shops. I’m really proud of this piece of legislation. I’ve got a lot of co-sponsors. It’s something we should get done. And frankly, it’s very frustrating as a lawmaker when we pass these laws, and then they go to be implemented, around infrastructure, around the Inflation Reduction Act, we’ve got union provisions, prevailing wage provisions in there, and then, somehow, they get cut out as the deals go forward. And I do oversight, but we’ve got to take it a step further, which is why I’ve introduced this legislation.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett

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Dem Rep. Stevens: Auto Workers Worried They Can't Buy Homes Due to High Prices, Interest

During an interview with ABC News on Friday, Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI) stated that striking auto workers are concerned about whether they can afford to buy homes because “Housing prices are high right now. Interest rates are at a uniquely high level.”

While discussing the 2024 presidential race in Michigan and the top issues in the state, Stevens stated, “Well, Joe Biden was in Michigan doing what President Joe Biden does best, listening to workers and real UAW employees. He was with the President of the UAW, Mr. Shawn Fain, because he was invited by Shawn Fain to go visit that picket line. And there is no one who knows the U.S. auto industry, the Michigan auto industry, and the Michigan auto worker like Joe Biden does. I joke around with him that we’re going to have to get him a little apartment in Detroit because of his love for the American auto industry.”

She continued, “And you bet your bottom dollar that the economy, good jobs are what are going to be on people’s minds. There are certainly lots of jobs available, but what we know that the American people, what the Michigan worker is looking for is that good-paying job. Housing prices are high right now. Interest rates are at a uniquely high level. Can I afford to buy that home? That is something I am hearing on that picket line right now.”

Stevens added, “The other issue that I think is going to ring very true heading into this election is this notion of good governance, trustworthy governance.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett

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Report: Home Prices 'Unaffordable' for Average Americans

Average Americans cannot afford to buy a home in a growing number of communities across the United States, according to a report released Thursday by real estate data provider ATTOM.

The report, CBS News noted, details how researchers analyzed 575 United States counties last year and found that 99 percent of those areas have home prices that are out of reach for “the average income earner” making $71,214 a year.

Housing experts blamed a few trends for driving up housing costs.

Mortgage rates have topped 7%, adding hundreds of dollars per month to a potential house payment,” CBS News reported. “At the same time, homeowners who locked in at lower mortgage rates during the pandemic have opted not to sell out of fear of having to buy another property at today’s elevated rates, depleting the supply of homes for sale.”

Daryl Fairweather, chief economist of Redfin, told CBS MoneyWatch that the only people who are selling right now are “people who really need to move because of a life event — divorce, marriage, new baby, new job, etc.”

“That lack of new inventory is keeping prices high,” Fairweather said. 

The National Association of Realtors reported in August that the national median existing-home price was $407,100, up 3.9 percent from last year. Freddie Mac reported that the average interest rate of a 30-year home loan was 7.19 percent, up from 6.48 percent at the beginning of this year.

“The dynamics influencing the U.S. housing market appear to continuously work against everyday Americans, potentially to the point where they could start to have a significant impact on home prices,” ATTOM CEO Rob Barber said in a statement Thursday. “We will see how this shakes out as the peak 2023 buying season winds down.”

Housing experts told the outlet the findings add to a growing body of research showing a lack of affordable housing, especially for younger millennials looking to become home owners.

Dan Hnatkovskyy, co-founder of new home construction startup NewHomesMate, said that many first-time home buyers have “had to postpone their home-buying dreams,” while older buyers with more cash on hand can buy down interest rates or absorb a higher monthly payment as they buy homes across the U.S.

ATTOM defined “unaffordable” as the cost for someone who has to pay more than 28 percent of their income toward a particular home. ATTOM assessed that between a mortgage payment, homeowners’ insurance, and property taxes, home costs would require 35 percent of someone’s annual wages or more.

The cities with the least affordable homes include Los Angeles, Chicago, Phoenix, San Diego, and Orange County, California, ATTOM said. Areas around Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh “have the most affordable homes compared with median salaries for residents there,” according to the report. 

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Biden Administration Gears Up to Tackle Student Debt After Wealth Transfer Failure

The Biden administration is attempting to tackle student loan debt once more, months after the Supreme Court nixed the administration’s controversial $430 student loan debt transfer.

According to reports, the U.S. Department of Education is previewing its new plan to address student loan debt, which differs from the initial plan to “forgive” up to $20,000 per borrower for individuals who make less than $125,000 annually — a failed plan that President Biden announced August 2022.

According to reports, the new plan is more narrowed and “will focus on certain groups of borrowers in its new plan, including those suffering from financial hardship or who entered in repayment decades ago.”

“But the Department of Education might try implementing it sooner, perhaps around the time of the election,” Kantrowitz said.

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement the administration is “diligently moving through the regulatory process to advance debt relief for even more borrowers.”

The Biden administration’s regrouping comes months after the Supreme Court struck down a mass student loan debt transfer, amounting to an estimated $430 billion. The Court struck down the policy 6-3, with Chief Justice John Roberts penning the majority opinion. Essentially, the Court ultimately concluded that Biden did not possess the authority to arbitrarily cancel such a large amount of debt singularly, without proper authorization from Congress.

As Breitbart News reported:

The Court considered two cases. … But in the second, Biden v. Nebraska, the Court held that the State of Nebraska had shown that Biden’s plan would hurt MOHELA, its nonprofit student loan provider.

In the opinion, Roberts also quoted former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who admitted Biden did not have the constitutional authority to cancel student loan debt via executive powers alone, asserting that it “has to be an act of Congress.”

The opinion reads in part:

The sharp debates generated by the Secretary [of Education]’s extraordinary program stand in stark contrast to the unanimity with which Congress passed the HEROES Act. The dissent asks us to “[i]magine asking the enacting Congress: Can the Secretary use his powers to give borrowers more relief when an emergency has inflicted greater harm?” … The dissent “can’t believe” the answer would be no. … But imagine instead asking the enacting Congress a more pertinent question: “Can the Secretary use his powers to abolish $430 billion in student loans, completely canceling loan balances for 20 million borrowers, as a pandemic winds down to its end?” We can’t believe the answer would be yes. Congress did not unanimously pass the HEROES Act with such power in mind. … As then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi explained:

“People think that the President of the United States has the power for debt forgiveness. He does not. He can postpone. He can delay. But he does not have that power. That has to be an act of Congress.” Press Conference, Office of the Speaker of the House (July 28, 2021).

All this leads us to conclude that “[t]he basic and consequential tradeoffs” inherent in a mass debt cancellation program “are ones that Congress would likely have intended for itself.” … In such circumstances, we have required the Secretary to “point to ‘clear congressional authorization’” to justify the challenged program. … And as we have already shown, the HEROES Act provides no authorization for the Secretary’s plan even when examined using the ordinary tools of statutory interpretation—let alone “clear congressional authorization” for such a program.

However, after the Court’s decision, Biden signaled that his administration would continue to seek ways to provide student debt relief.

“Today’s decision has closed one path,” Biden said. “Now we’re going to pursue another.”

Student loan payments resume in October after over three years, as they were originally paused in March 2020.

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