In its closing five weeks, the Trump administration is making some bold governance moves. No, it hasn’t suddenly decided to work to stem the tide of record covid-19 deaths, hospitalisations, and deaths. Instead, it’s focusing on what really matters: making sure every showerhead can deliver 11 litres of water per minute.
On Tuesday, the same day 2,918 Americans died of a disease whose spread we’re choosing not to stem, the Department of Energy announced it had finalised a rule put forward in August for showerhead efficiency. Since 1992, showerheads have maxed out at 11 l per minute. That covered an entire multi-showerhead system, the likes of which a fancy person such as President Donald Trump owns. The new rule will let each showerhead in a system blast 11 litres per minute, rather than all showerheads in a shower combined.
“You take a shower, the water doesn’t come out,” the president said in remarks at the White House in July. He also worked the shower bit along with the toilet bit into his rallies and other official happenings while griping that he needs his hair to be “perfect.” Apparently the new shower rule, finalised while a record 21,897 people sat in hospital beds being ravaged by covid-19, will help in that regard, though if I’m being honest, I have my doubts.
Some might call the new rule wasteful, particularly in places like the Southwest that are facing increasing odds of a megadrought due to the climate crisis. Some might say that, perhaps, instead of letting the rich power-wash themselves, we should improve access to running water, of which half a million people currently living in major American cities don’t have. Some might even go so far as saying the federal government should be laser-focused on getting enough covid-19 vaccine doses distributed, staving off a winter of death and hardship, and rallying for another economic stimulus to prevent utility shutoffs rather than passing frivolous rules about showerheads.
This is all par for the course, though. The U.S. Department of Energy isn’t the only agency pushing through rules that will benefit the wealthy and corporations at the expense of everyday people and the planet in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. The Environmental Protection Agency has been ground zero, refusing to update soot regulations and deciding it can’t consider multiple life-saving benefits of curtailing pollution. The Fish and Wildlife Service found that monarch butterflies are facing extinction while deciding to not grant them endangered species protections, fitting a Trump administration trend. It also decided to take another swipe at weakening the Endangered Species Act.
So the Department of Energy is really just playing catch up here in doing damage as the Trump era winds down, and it’s also incredibly on-brand. But hey, we should be fair. In its press release, the agency said it’s not about wasting water, it’s that showerheads will finally “provide enough water for quality showers.” Which, after four years of baffling and counterproductive governance, is honestly something we could all use.