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The Energy Star icon many rely on to save money, energy and the environment has been under close scrutiny by the federal government in recent months.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) was recently asked to perform tests of Energy Star’s certification process given the millions of dollars in incentives which promote it, as well as concerns that flaws in its program would make it open to fraud and misuse. Last March, after gaining Energy Star partnerships for four bogus manufacturing firms and submitting 20 nonexistent items, including a “gasoline-powered alarm clock,” for certification, the GAO reported that 15 were accepted and certified, while two were rejected and three did not get a response. In addition, as a sign of Energy Star’s importance to businesses and consumers, two of the four bogus firms were contacted by real companies to purchase their “Energy Star-certified products.”
The label was established in 1992 by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy to identify the most efficient appliances and products. Millions of Americans rely on this label to save on energy bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the U.S. government and several states offer tax credits to encourage using energy-efficient products, including Energy Star-labeled products. In 2008, Energy Star reported that consumers saved $19 billion on energy costs, and under President Obama’s stimulus package in 2009, at least $300 million in rebates were given to consumers who bought Energy Star products.
DOE and EPA officials stated that the program was currently based on self-certifications by manufacturers, and in a March 30 letter to Energy Star stakeholders, new rules were proposed to prevent falsifying of information. Under these new rules, products may no longer receive the Energy Star label until qualifying product information, including a lab report, is received and approved by the EPA, including online submissions. Until the information is approved, partners in the Energy Star program would not be granted access to the label.