Makers of everything from refrigerators to computers have used the Energy Star label to tout the efficiency of their products for years. Turns out the label may not have actually meant much...until now. An audit of the program by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that it was easy to obtain Energy Star approval--even for fake products. How? For years the EPA and DOE relied on an automated approval process. Products were not tested to ensure that they were as efficient as the maker stated. Sometimes applications were not even reviewed by a human being. It is a good think Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, requested the GAO study.
Thanks to the study, changes are in the works. Effective immediately, according to a recent EPA/DOE press release, manufacturers wishing to qualify their products as Energy Star must submit complete lab reports and results for review and approval prior to labeling. EPA will no longer rely on an automated approval process. All new qualification applications will be reviewed and approved individually by EPA. By the end of this year, all manufacturers must submit test results from an approved, accredited lab for any product seeking the Energy Star label. Testing in an accredited lab is currently only required for some products. The new process will extend the requirement to each of the more than 60 eligible product categories under the Energy Star program.
It is encouraging that the Energy Star program is being strengthened. What is disappointing and shocking is how much "teeth" the program lacked for so long. It is just one more reason to always question and challenge government-run programs. Your thoughts?