Inside Conservative Groups’ Effort to ‘Make Dishwashers Great Again’

Dishwasher makers themselves dispute that dishwasher performance has gotten worse because of environmental regulations and they say they aren’t looking for weaker standards. A study from Consumer Reports said this year that today’s dishwashers use roughly half the water and energy of 20 years ago. In fact, using a modern dishwasher tends to be more energy- and water-efficient than doing the dishes by hand.

“It’s confounding, it’s hard to explain, this blanket attack on regulations,” said Jason Hartke, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, a bipartisan nonprofit organization that represents businesses, environmental groups and consumer advocates. “I don’t think they’re listening to industry,” he said. “They’re trying to put out-of-date, inefficient products in American homes.”

Much of the support for these rollbacks has come instead from a small group of conservative, free market organizations, many allied with the fossil fuel industry. For example, a secretive policy group financed by corporations, the American Legislative Exchange Council, worked alongside the gasoline producer Marathon Petroleum to urge legislators to support weakening the clean-car rules.

The Washington-based Competitive Enterprise Institute, a group that disputes that climate change is a problem, has promoted the effort to roll back dishwasher regulations, filing a petition that directly prompted the dishwasher review. As a nonprofit organization, the Competitive Enterprise Institute isn’t required to disclose its donors, though a recent gala organized by the institute showed that the institute counts among its donors groups that have long been aligned with fossil fuel interests.

Sam Kazman, the group’s general counsel, said its policies “are based on our principles, not on what our supporters think about specific issues.” He added, “We wouldn’t be surprised if they support this initiative — especially if they do their own dishes.”

The FreedomWorks regulatory policy manager, Daniel Savickas, said the Competitive Enterprise Institute had flagged the dishwasher issue and the groups had decided to combine their efforts. “We try and roll back burdensome regulations and make life easier for consumers and manufacturers,” he said.

“The dishwasher in my apartment is absolute garbage, and I have to run cycles multiple times,” Mr. Savickas said.

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