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Your kitchen is a battleground in Obama energy efficiency push

For a taste of the energy legacy that President Obama is about to leave behind, check the fridge.

No, literally. Since 2009, his administration has created 43 rules that will deliver the biggest energy savings of any president in history, eliminating demand in 2030 equal to the electricity produced by 96 power plants, based on a consumer group’s estimates. And among the most effective is one that has the family refrigerator running on less power than it takes to light a 50-watt bulb.

A rule completed last month will shrink the energy used by commercial rooftop air conditioners and furnaces, an effort the U.S. government projects will save 1.7 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity over 30 years, more than any other change since efficiency laws were enacted in 1975. Supporters say that the changes will cut power bills. Opponents warn that appliance costs will rise as manufacturers spend tens of millions redesigning products.

“It’s major progress for energy efficiency and it’s also a major success in straightening out an important energy savings program that had not previously delivered on what it was supposed to do,” Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Boston-based Appliance Standards Awareness Project, said in a phone call.

The Obama administration is guilty of overreach, say opponents. A rule for dishwashers proposed in 2014 curbs water consumption so much that the machines failed to remove food caked on plates and utensils, according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, a trade organization. The draft standard, which may be adopted in August, was the result of the U.S. Energy Department’s failure to consider input from manufacturers and conduct proper product testing, the Washington-based group said.

“The DOE is rushing to promulgate as many rules as they possibly can and they are running into situations where they are cutting corners in the analysis,” said Joseph McGuire, president of the Washington-based group. “We are concerned that they’re going too far and they’re going too fast, and it won’t be a good deal for the consumer.”

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