Commentary Archive

Dept. of Energy

How to Improve Retrospective Review and Reduce Regulatory Burdens

July 18, 2014

Through its Regulatory Burden Request for Information (RFI), DOE is seeking comment from the public on how to effectively review its existing regulations, pursuant to Executive Order 13563. In response to this RFI, we filed a comment offering three recommendations to DOE to further its retrospective review efforts.First, DOE should incorporate plans for retrospective review into its economically significant or major rules. Second, DOE should allow enough time between its energy efficiency standards to allow for an effective review of each rule’s effects before issuing updated rules. Third, DOE should use the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index to measure whether its existing energy efficiency standards have had negative effects on competition in the regulated industries.

Funding levels for federal regulatory agencies over time

Tight Budgets Constrain Some Regulatory Agencies, but Not All

July 15, 2014

Each year we examine the President’s proposed Budget of the United States to identify the outlays and staffing devoted to developing and enforcing federal regulations. This “regulators’ budget” report covers agencies whose regulations primarily affect private-sector activities, and expressly excludes budget and staffing associated with regulations that govern taxation, entitlement, procurement, subsidy, and credit functions. This year’s analysis also documents some interesting long-term shifts in regulatory spending patterns, including a trend in which overall outlays devoted to economic regulatory activities, including price, quality, and entry regulation, are increasing at a faster rate than those aimed at social regulatory activities, such as environmental, safety and health issues. This reverses a trend that began in the 1970s away from economic regulation of private-sector activities. This is worth watching because economic theory and empirical evidence suggest that the costs of economic types of regulation often outweigh the benefits.

No smoking sign

Thank You for Not Smoking (e-Cigarettes)

July 08, 2014

The Food and Drug Administration's proposed a rule would deem e-cigarettes (and possibly cigars) to be subject to tobacco product requirements such as ingredient listing, pre-market clearance, free sampling prohibition, minimum age requirement, and limit on sales by vending machines, as well as required health and addiction warning statements. The rule is intended to improve health outcomes by reducing the number of youths and young adults who are exposed to e-cigarettes and cigars. However, there are limited data on the actual impact of e-cigarettes and cigars on health outcomes and addiction patterns. Naturally, there are many unknowns in the proposal, in particular, a lack of evidence specifically about differentiated public health impacts of various tobacco products and of baseline usage patterns and risks. Given the uncertainty and inherent complexity of a regulation such as this one, it is paramount to ensure that the rule is written in a way that allows ex post feedback on whether intended goals have been reached.