President Joe Biden's administration is set to impose new energy requirements on mobile homes that will raise costs while doing little for the environment, the Daily Caller reported. This will hit low earners the hardest, considering most of the homes are occupied by families with a median income of $35,000 annually.
The new requirements set forth by the Department of Energy require additional upgrades to requirements like sealing and insulation that would arguably increase heating and cooling efficiency. The rules will go into effect on May 31, which marks a year since they were finalized.
While it might save customers between $177 and $475 on their annual utilities, it would increase the cost of these homes by as much as $4,500. “The rules will hold manufacturers of these U.S. homes to cost-saving efficiency standards, giving residents more comfortable living environments and a much-needed break on their annual utility costs while delivering cleaner air for their communities,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm claimed in a press release.
However, this is wishful thinking considering the economic situation of the buyers. These homes, also known as manufactured homes, are purchased by low-income buyers who will not be able to simply scrape up more cash if the prices rise.
Moreover, Jonathan Lesser of the Manhattan Institute said that these changes will have a "negligible" effect on emissions. "According to the DOE’s own estimates, over a 30-year period, the new rule will reduce CO2 emissions by 80.4 million metric tons," Lesser said.
"By comparison, according to the 2022 BP Statistical Review of World Energy, US energy-related CO2 emissions were 4.7 billion metric tons," he added. "So, over a 30-year period, the new rule will reduce CO2 emissions by the equivalent of 150 hours of US emissions in 2022."
"Obviously, this rule will have zero impact on climate," Lesser later concluded. He said the new rules seemed like they were "designed to force more low-income consumers into rentals, rather than being able to own their own homes."
Rising interest rates and high home prices have already delayed the American dream of homeownership for many wishing to purchase. E.J. Antoni, economist at the Heritage Foundation, was similarly concerned about these buyers being priced out of the market.
"Not only does [the DOE rule] increase the upfront cost of buying a home for lower-income families, but by the time these additional costs pay themselves off, a new generation of heating and cooling equipment will likely be available, which will use less energy," Antoni said. "That means the energy savings over the life of the home will not be as high as projected."
Jason Sorens, American Institute for Economic Research economist, worries that the existing trend toward upgrading to newer, safer homes could be impacted by these rules. "Moderate-income households who would otherwise buy new manufactured homes will be pushed into buying used homes, renting, or tightening their belts to afford a new home that meets the rule," Sorens said.
"In general, command-and-control environmental rules like this one that mandate a specific technology are out of favor with economists. It’s far better to price energy appropriately and let consumers make up their own minds how they want to be more efficient," Sorens added.
Meanwhile, the Texas Manufactured Housing Association and the Manufactured Housing Institute are fighting back against these "arbitrary, capricious, and impracticable" rules. In a lawsuit filed in February, the organizations objected to the one-year timeline and argued that the DOE did not weigh the financial burden nor consult with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Many rules like this are ostensibly implemented to protect the environment but often have a negative economic impact. It may not be intentional, but it's a coincidence that seems to happen all too often.
As it is, the people who purchase manufactured homes do so because they're an affordable alternative to throwing money away on renting. Instead of supporting that goal, Biden has put yet another obstacle in their way after already wrecking the economy -- and that's just wrong.