Obama Raises Appliance Efficiency Standards

President Obama is ordering his government to put in place higher efficiency standards for everyday products such as dishwashers, lamps and microwave ovens.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Eager to show action on the energy front, President Barack Obama is ordering his government to put in place higher efficiency standards for everyday products such as dishwashers, lamps and microwave ovens.

Obama was to sign a presidential memorandum Thursday directing the Energy Department to get moving on energy standards for appliances, including a first batch he will order to be finalized by August. The fact that Obama is getting directly involved in speeding up household appliance standards underscores how much he wants to show quick, clear progress on energy -- part of a broader campaign promise to deal with economic and energy concerns all at once.

Laws on the books already require new efficiency standards for household and commercial appliances. But they have been backlogged in a tangle of missed deadlines, bureaucratic disputes and litigation. In essence, Obama's intent is to say that legal deadlines must be met, with priority being given to those standards that are likely to yield the best pocketbook savings for consumers, according to administration aides familiar with the details of Obama's decision.

They spoke on condition of anonymity because the presidential memorandum had not yet been released. In addition to signing the document, Obama also planned to visit the Energy Department to talk to employees and make a pitch for how his economic jobs plan would help the energy sector.

Obama's memorandum would order final rules to be in place by August that require energy-efficiency standards for a series of products: residential dishwashers, lamps, ranges and ovens, microwave ovens, commercial air-conditioning equipment, commercial boilers and beverage vending machines.

His directive will ask the Energy Department to meet all deadlines in setting energy standards but to evaluate them in priority order and finish some ahead of schedule. Administration officials say the cumulative effect will be seen in cost savings, conserved energy and lower greenhouse-gas emissions blamed for global warming.

So far in his presidency, Obama also took a major step toward allowing California and other states to target greenhouse gases through more stringent auto emission standards. And he has also ordered new federal rules directing automakers to start making more fuel-efficient cars as required by law.

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