Environment: Energy Star dims

A trusted eco-label admits to lax standards and problems with quality control.

When the United States Government Accountability Office (GOA) put the Energy Star certification body to the test, it was displeased to see that a bogus gasoline-powered alarm clock the size of a small generator was approved for certification without any questions or review. Its report details 14 other fictitious products that were Energy Star approved, some in less than 30 minutes.

GOA asserts that consumers, businesses and federal agencies depend on a certification process that is invulnerable to fraud and abuse. Energy Star, which is run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), has become a trusted label on computers, lights and appliances and is internationally recognizable. In Canada, Energy Star works with Natural Resources Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency, where products must meet and exceed the country’s federal energy-efficiency standards. Most, though not all, products that qualify in the U.S. also qualify in Canada.

Just 14 days after the GOA’s report landed, Energy Star released a statement that welcomed more efforts to improve the program, and admitted that 98% of the products tested met the requirements last year. The EPA and DOE then announced the launch of new testing processes.