Does ‘cash for appliances’ make sense?

On the heals of the ‘cash for clunkers’ campaign that boosted car sales, the administration is now looking at a new program to boost the energy efficiency of American households. It’s an ugly truth that US households are among the least efficient in the industrialized world. Even using the best numbers, US households use at least twice the amount of energy as their UK counterparts. Part of the reason is that energy costs in the US are dramatically less than other industrialized countries. Part of it also has to do with the manufacturers (such as GE) who have made few technical advancements in decades. US appliances are big and bulky and energy pigs. (And what gives with US washers and dryers that destroy clothes in no time?)

Using the “Betty Crocker” Easy-Bake style ovens and appliances over here can be annoying around this time of the year when they barely can squeeze in 15 pound turkey (and nothing else) but then again, so can writing a check to pay for the energy. On the one hand, it seems ridiculous to positively reward the appliance industry who has been a big part of the problem. It’s questionable how many appliances are even made in the US as well. At least with the ‘cash for clunkers’ program the Japanese cars were often coming from the US factories. On the other hand, if this is what it takes to bring US households into the modern world with energy efficiency, maybe it makes sense.

On the heels of its ballyhooed “Cash for Clunkers” program for cars, the federal government is expected to finalize details in the coming weeks of another tax-supported shopping extravaganza, known as “Cash for Appliances.”

Supported by $300 million from the economic stimulus, the program will offer rebates to consumers who buy energy-efficient refrigerators, dishwashers, air conditioners and other appliances to replace their older models.


An American in Paris, France. BA in History & Political Science from Ohio State. Provided consulting services to US software startups, launching new business overseas that have both IPO’d and sold to well-known global software companies. Currently launching a new cloud-based startup. Full bio here.

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