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Washers to Cut Energy Use by Half

U.S. makers of clothes appliances agree to make change by 2007. Consumers will pay about $100 more per machine.

May 24, 2000|From Bloomberg News

WASHINGTON — Whirlpool Corp., Maytag Corp., General Electric Co. and other leading home appliance makers in the U.S. agreed to make clothes-washing machines by 2007 that use half as much energy as current models.

The effort will cost each manufacturer tens of millions of dollars to redesign production lines and upgrade manufacturing capacity, said the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, which helped broker the agreement.

Consumers will pay about $100 more for a washing machine, the group said.

Some washing machines from Maytag and Frigidaire, a unit of Sweden's Electrolux, already meet the new energy efficiency standards, though those front-loading machines cost several hundred dollars more than standard washers, the appliance group said.

The agreement is the latest of several such accords made between the Clinton administration and appliance makers to develop and manufacture energy-efficient and cost-effective consumer products.

The parties also agreed to a tax credit for washing-machine manufacturers that exceed these efficiency standards. The Energy Department said it plans to adopt the standards by the end of the year, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers said it will back efforts to have the tax credit approved by Congress.

"The U.S. consumer will reap the benefits of what we have agreed to here," Larry Johnston, chief executive of General Electric's GE Appliances unit, said at a briefing in Washington to announce the agreement. He said the washers will use less energy and less hot water, saving consumers billions of dollars on their utility bills.

Whirlpool President Jeff Fettig said his company, which has made more than half the home washing machines in North America, plans to "use our global product development and technology capabilities to develop both clothes washers and refrigerators that exceed the new energy efficiency levels."

"The standards announced [Tuesday] will save enough electricity to light 16 million U.S. homes for 25 years while cutting greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equal to that produced by 3 million cars every year," Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said.

Environmental groups said that consumers will save $75 a year in energy costs, and that pollution will be reduced because less energy will have to be generated to run the washers.

Manufacturers agreed to meet some stricter energy efficiency standards by 2004, with the stronger standards in place by 2007, when energy use will be cut by about half.

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