Energy Star - just one more army in the fight to green our gadgets, right? Turns out, according to the US Government Accountability Office, Energy Star is "for the most part a self-certification program vulnerable to fraud and abuse"; they set up twenty fake products - including websites to go along with them - and sent them in to Energy Star to be certified. Fifteen were accepted, including "a gas-powered alarm clock".
"GAO's investigation shows that Energy Star is for the most part a self-certification program vulnerable to fraud and abuse. GAO obtained Energy Star certifications for 15 bogus products, including a gas-powered alarm clock. Two bogus products were rejected by the program and 3 did not receive a response. In addition, two of the bogus Energy Star firms developed by GAO received requests from real companies to purchase products because the bogus firms were listed as Energy Star partners. This clearly shows how heavily American consumers rely on the Energy Star brand. The program is promoted through tax credits and appliance rebates, and federal agencies are required to purchase certain Energy Star certified products." Government Accountability Office
The alarm clock - which was described as the size of a small generator - may sound flippant, but other devices were a little more serious. A geothermal heat pump promising better energy efficiency than any other device listed in Energy Star's database, and which would be eligible for both federal tax credits and state rebates, was approved with no questions asked about exactly how it managed to outperform everything else. Meanwhile other products - such as a computer monitor and refrigerator - were approved in anything from 30 minutes to 24hrs.
Out of the twenty fictitious devices, Energy Star required independent testing on just four; however they only stipulated the third-party testing firm in two of those cases, allowing the GAO to falsely claim that they'd had the products examined. While the potential environmental impact is one thing - with manufacturers able to list their own, unchecked figures and have them taken at face value - it's also a big money business, with various agencies and rebate schemes demanding that products bought must be certified by Energy Star. The US government reckons it will be tightening up approval processes, but it's been saying that since last year.
[via Tree Hugger]