Tuesday, October 20

Energy Star: Greenwashing at It's Worst?

Under the federal stimulus bill, $300 million will go to rebates for consumers who buy Energy Star products. In theory, a great idea--trading in energy guzzling appliance "clunkers" for more energy efficient ones. But are they? Maybe not. The EPA and Energy Departments have a small problem with accountability. Apparently manufacturers are certifying the energy savings of their products with little oversight. According to a Time article:

The Energy Department admits it doesn't properly track how and when manufacturers put Energy Star labels on products. The labels' ratings, which are supposed to indicate a product's energy efficiency, were "not accurate or verifiable," according to the agency. In other words, products that are supposed to save you money, and that are supposed to minimize environmental impact, may in fact do neither.

The Energy Star label is one of several "innovations" that are supposed to make consumers' lives easier—but in fact complicate them because the technology is flawed and misleading. The outcome is that unsuspecting consumers can and do get ripped off.

The NY Times explains that the Energy Department has poor oversight over the Energy Star ratings system. In many cases, the manufacturer—and the manufacturers alone—are responsible for testing and evaluating their own products. That's like letting junior high students decide what grades they should get on their report cards. From the Times:

While the Energy Department requires manufacturers of windows and L.E.D. and fluorescent lighting to have independent laboratories evaluate their products, the report said, companies that make refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashers, water heaters and room air-conditioners, which consume far more energy, can certify those appliances themselves.

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