The Far-Reaching Ripples of Your Vote

May 7, 2012
This year is shaping up to be an interesting one with the big election coming up in the fall. I’m sure we’ll all get riled up about different political and social issues as the campaigns start to heat up. There may soon be one overriding theme that will dominate the news cycle, and it will seem like all of our votes hang on that one topic.

Yet while it can be easy to get fixated on one issue during an election cycle, there will be many other effects of the ballots we submit in November. And many of these results will not be evident for years down the road.

As The NEWS has continued to publish more and more information about the governmental regulation and legislation that affect the HVAC industry, one thing that has repeatedly struck me is how long it can take before the impact of your vote is felt in our business.

Long-Term Impact

For instance, look at some of the regulatory changes facing HVAC contractors today. One of the biggest is the Department of Energy’s (DOE) upcoming rule instituting regional standards for residential furnaces, heat pumps, and air conditioners. This rule will take effect for nonweatherized furnaces in May 2013, and for the other product categories in January 2015.

Keep those dates in mind: The new regional standards will barely begin the first phase of implementation in the middle of 2013, and won’t be fully in place until 2015.

But if you go back to the origin of this regulation, you’ll discover that it was originally proposed in legislation that Congress passed in 2007, the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA). EISA specifically granted DOE the authority to make separate standards for HVAC equipment based on geographic region.

So one way to think of the upcoming regional standards is that they are a result of the representatives we voted into Congress in 2006 and earlier. Plus, President George W. Bush signed EISA into law, so a vote for him in 2004 also rippled down into this rule.

More recently, the DOE’s leaders decided to utilize the authority granted them by EISA and started the long regulatory process to develop regional standards. The Department of Energy is headed up by the Secretary of Energy, which is a presidential appointment. The current secretary, Dr. Steven Chu, was put in charge by President Obama. So that means a vote for Obama in 2008 also rippled into the regional standards rulemaking.

Tracing all of the intersecting legislative and regulatory processes that will ultimately result in the new standards law is probably impossible. But it’s interesting to consider how our votes in 2004, 2006, and 2008 had an impact on the final outcome — in 2015.

Future Implications

Of course, it’s impossible to predict or even begin to imagine all the consequences our votes can have when we’re standing in that ballot box. But it’s also undeniable that both the Congressional and presidential elections this year will have ripple effects that could potentially impact the HVAC industry far into the future.

For instance, consider the bills that could come before the next Congress we elect into office. Laws could be written and passed for tax credits for HVAC upgrades, such as the current HOMES Act that has been introduced in the House of Representatives. There’s also the possibility that Congress could work on even broader energy legislation.

Additionally, consider the regulations proposed and put into place by the federal agencies that regulate many activities related to HVAC. Not only do the DOE and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have a direct impact on the industry, but other agencies like the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) make rules that can affect the HVAC contractor. All of these agencies are part of the executive branch of government, so they are run by people who serve at the pleasure of the president.

I’m not telling you how to vote on Election Day, but I am saying it’s wise to take the time to think beyond the hype that the pundits and campaigns will be spinning. Ultimately, your vote will have more wide-ranging and far-reaching implications than you can possibly conceive of on November 6. And some of its ripple effects will certainly be felt by the HVAC industry.

Publication date: 05/07/2012

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