Just months after a Biden-appointed regulator teased a ban on gas stoves, the administration is working to enact a rule that would prohibit the manufacturing of nearly all portable gas generators on the U.S. market.
A proposed Consumer Product Safety Commission rule limits the amount of carbon monoxide a product can emit, with the commission admitting that 95 percent of portable gas generators on the market cannot comply with its new standard. As a result, industry leaders say, the rule will prompt widespread generator shortages, as manufacturers only have six months to design generators that meet the proposed regulation. That process normally takes years, Portable Generator Manufacturers' Association executive director Susan Orenga told the Washington Free Beacon.
The rule proposal comes just months after Biden-backed commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. teased a similar regulatory ban on gas stoves, which he called a "hidden hazard." It also comes as many Americans face an increased risk of power outages as the country increasingly relies on green energy to produce its electricity. A whopping two-thirds of North America faces an "elevated risk" of power blackouts this summer, a leading grid watchdog found in May, a vulnerability that stems from America's increase in green power generation and decrease in fossil fuel power plants. California, for example, saw power outages in the summer of 2022 as electricity demand surged.
Portable gas generators can help those who experience a power outage keep the lights on, and nearly five million households use them. Should the Biden administration finalize its rule, however, the generators could become difficult to obtain. The commission's rule prohibits manufacturers from stockpiling non-compliant generators prior to the rule's enactment.
Beyond the Consumer Product Safety Commission, President Joe Biden's Energy Department has unveiled a slew of environmental regulations to fight climate change. The department says its proposed gas stove rule, for example, would effectively ban half of all models on the U.S. market from being sold. The department has also proposed or finalized energy efficiency rules targeting washing machines, refrigerators, and lightbulbs. "Collectively," the department said in February, "these energy actions … support President Biden's ambitious clean energy agenda to combat the climate crisis."
Many portable generator manufacturers already impose voluntary standards to keep consumers safe from carbon monoxide emissions. The Portable Generator Manufacturers' Association standard requires a generator to automatically shut off when carbon monoxide concentrations hit certain levels. It also imposes product warning labels and durability requirements for the shutoff systems.
Still, the Biden administration is looking to adopt more stringent carbon monoxide emission caps from Underwriters Laboratories, an international product safety company. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says its rule is necessary due to low compliance with voluntary standards in the gas generator market—it estimates that just 30 percent of models comply with the Portable Generator Manufacturers' Association standard. The association, however, says roughly 75 percent of the market is compliant with its standards.
Only one manufacturer, Techtronic Industries, certifies its products to a level that would mostly satisfy the commission's proposed rule. But none of its models appear on best-seller and top-rated lists from Electric Generators Direct, Popular Mechanics, or Forbes. Only a few of the company's models, meanwhile, are strong enough to power a home during an outage. The company's models are also more expensive than their competitors.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission says its standards will stop carbon monoxide deaths from portable generators. Commission press secretary Patty Davis, however, could only point to one fatal incident involving a model that complies with the Portable Generator Manufacturers' Association standard. But that incident, which killed three people in Louisiana in 2021, was likely caused by user error—the users placed the generator next to their house with the exhaust port directly in front of the door, a setup that contradicts generator guidelines.
The public comment period for the proposed generator rule ended June 20, and the commission will now draft its final version, which will go into effect 180 days after its approval.