The U.S. Department of Energy recently doled out $300 million so that states could offer rebates to consumers buying new appliances. Ohio got $10.4 million; as of yesterday 43,530 people had received rebates and $3 million remained in the program, ready to be parceled out to people buying refrigerators and dishwashers. The appliances consumers are being encouraged to buy bear the “Energy Star” label and are supposed to be more energy efficient. If you buy the right kind of appliance, you can get a $100 rebate for a refrigerator, dishwasher, or high-efficency gas water heater, $150 for a washing machine, and $250 for an electric heat pump water heater.
Ironically, the program was announced about the same time the results of a General Accountability Office sting on the “Energy Star” program were announced. The sting showed that the government had awarded the Energy Star label to a number of phony or silly products, like a gasoline-powered alarm clock. So, who knows whether the products the rebate program encouraged consumers to buy really were more energy efficient than the products they replaced.
With the appalling budget problems we have at all levels of government, why in the world are we offering rebates to consumers to buy major household appliances? And, why in the world would any rational consumer buy anything with their own nickel right now? The past few months have shown that if you just wait a while, the government will likely help you buy a new car, a new washer, or a new house.