Issues & Insights

Feds Suggest Setting Thermostats At 85 Degrees — How Long Before It’s A Mandate?

I&I Editorial

Energy Star, “the government-backed symbol for energy efficiency,” has issued some rather extreme guidelines for our residential heating and cooling habits. Today they’re recommendations. Can Washington guarantee that tomorrow they won’t be orders from central planning?

The Energy Department/Environmental Protection Agency program suggests that homeowners set their thermostats at 85 degrees during the day, 82 while sleeping, then 78 for waking up during warm months. For colder weather, the guidelines are 62 degrees during the day and while sleeping, and 70 for waking up and evening hours.

According to the conventional media, this has brewed up a storm on social media.

And it should.

Unsolicited advice from the federal government is benign. All might not welcome the recommendations, but as long as they have no requirements attached they’re rather harmless.

But guidelines can become commands, and who would be surprised if the Energy Department or the EPA under a Democratic president would turn those suggestions into regulations? It’s happened before.

We’ve been nagged about our energy use from Jimmy Carter, who lectured us in February 1977 about energy conservation and announced plans for a national energy policy while wearing a cardigan next to a crackling fireplace during a televised speech; to Barack Obama, who insisted Americans can’t drive their SUVs “and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times whether we’re living in the desert or living in the tundra.”

There’s nothing wrong with conserving energy, as long as it’s done voluntarily. Consumers self-ration when prices increase (in instances in which government allows markets to price goods and services without interference), a natural mechanism that prevents shortages. Higher prices also “give a signal to potential producers to enter a market.”

In the case of energy, this could mean renewables, which the “conservationists” say they want to replace fossil fuels. Which means they are fighting against themselves when they argue for conserving conventional sources.

Maybe the key for them is not so much what resources are used to produce energy but how much control they have over energy use.

The political left, from where the scolds come from, is not interested in consumers making their own choices. Progressives, Democrats, statists, and “Democratic” socialists prefer government choose for us. The long list of busybodies includes Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont socialist who says we have too many choices in footgear; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the Democrat from a reservation she’s been kicked off of, who as the chief schemer behind the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau cracked down on consumer choice; and virtually every elected Democrat in the country.

Fear of public utilities, which are quasi-government agents, controlling residential smart thermostats are legitimate. Combine that with the left’s political drive for greater control over the private sector, and it’s clear why we should be concerned that the thermostat suggestions will eventually be rules.

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Issues & Insights is a new site formed by the seasoned journalists behind the legendary IBD Editorials page. Our goal is to bring our decades of combined journalism experience to help readers understand the top issues of the day. We’re doing this on a voluntary basis, because we believe the nation needs the kind of cogent, rational, data-driven, fact-based commentary that we can provide. 

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