This comes from the Green Blog at the Boston Globe:
An article in the current issue of Consumer Reports magazine lambasts the federal Energy Star rating system as outdated and so riddled with loopholes that way too many greenhouse gas-guzzling appliances get qualified for the energy efficiency label.
It’s not the first time questions have been raised about the joint program of the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy meant to help consumers choose appliances that are lighter on power usage and their electric bills. The General Accounting Office last year broached similar concerns. The GAO reported, for instance, that TVs are tested in standby mode because the Energy Star standards are so old they were written for black-and-white sets.
This month’s Consumer Reports article looked at refrigerators, finding they consumed much more electricity than advertised when put through the nonprofit watchdog group’s “comparative energy tests, which are tougher than the Department of Energy's and better resemble how you use a refrigerator.” One model used more than twice the electricity claimed on its Energy Star label.
The controversy is yet another facing environmental certification standards that have proliferated as consumers grow increasingly concerned about global warming. The drive to provide consumers with ways to identify eco-friendly products has largely fallen short, critics say. (Read the rest)
The article in question (the Consumer Reports article that is) is from their October 2008 issue. It's called "Energy Star has lost some luster."
The EPA of course had to respond...
The Consumer Reports article misses the basic point of the ENERGY STAR program. ENERGY STAR is designed to help consumers find energy-efficient products that will cost-effectively help save them money and help them protect the environment. It has been doing this successfully for more than fifteen years. Last year alone, the program prevented 40 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions while saving Americans more than $16 billion on their utility bills.
To accomplish this, EPA initially seeks to have about 25 percent of available models meet the ENERGY STAR criteria when they are first established for a product category. Increasing the market share of qualifying products from their initial levels is a goal of the program – not a fundamental flaw, as the article suggests.
Further, there are other important considerations in developing these criteria that the Consumer Reports article does not mention. These include that the criteria:
- allow for a reasonable level of product availability,
- are set so that consumers will get their money back through lower energy bills fairly quickly if there is a price premium for the products, and
- can be met without sacrifice in product performance.
Later in the EPA response, it says "The EPA stands by the integrity of the Energy Star program."
I'm of the opinion that most certification systems aren't perfect. And they certainly can all stand to be reevaluated every now and again. But...they give us a starting point.
What do you all think?