carelessness, and misinformation -- Congressional investigators found
all of those things when investigating the EnergyStar
program over the course of the last year.Congressional
auditors posing as companies secured EnergyStar credentials for 12
bogus products since last June, illustrating deep problems with the
green certification program.EnergyStar is a "green"
certification process for energy
efficient products. It was created by the Clinton
administration 18 years ago, and has since been adopted by several
nations worldwide. EnergyStar products are signified by special
stickers and may earn buyers federal
tax credits (not all EnergyStar products qualify for tax
credits).Among the bogus products that received the
supposedly prestigious distinction were a "gasoline-powered
alarm clock" and an "air purifier", which really was
an electric space heater with a feather duster glued to the top.The
Congressional panel took conventional products like dehumidifiers and
heat pump model and created fictitious "products" in these
categories that used 20 percent less energy than their standard
brethren. They then submitted this information -- and in most
cases were awarded EnergyStar certification with few questions.
Auditors say that the study shows how vulnerable the program is to
fraud.Maria Vargas, an official with the Environmental
Protection Agency, which runs
the program with the Energy
Department, defends the program saying that there was "no
fraud" as the bogus products weren't real and that she doubts
that any of the 40,000 other EnergyStar-certified products are
mislabeled. However, the Energy Department has promised to
improve the program in two statements.The
problems run far beyond mere submissions, though, Congress found.
Companies with approved EnergyStar products could freely download the
logo and paste it on any of their products -- even those which had
not been certified.According to members of Congress EPA
officials admitted, though, that some submissions are analyzed by an
automated system without review by a single human eye. This was
reportedly the case in the "gasoline-powered alarm clock"
submission. EPA spokespeople say this is a lie. They say
that the automated system is only a preliminary "screen"
and that human review is
Susan Collins, R-ME, doubts the veracity of these statements,
though. Sen. Collins, who launched the investigation, comments,
"I don’t think I’d admit that."She says that if
humans did review the products, which came with comical pictures,
"and red flags didn’t get raised, that’s a really troubling
commentary." She concludes that the retailers can easily
sell consumers products that don't really save them energy. She
comments, "This program is extraordinarily easy to
defraud."Many manufacturers with legitimate energy
saving products never apply for the logo and miss taxpayer funding.
According to the EPA, 80 percent of monitors without the logo last
year were energy efficient enough to receive one. In fact, some
of these unlabeled products consumed less energy that labeled
EnergyStar products.There have already been a couple high
profile scandals of EnergyStar products. In October 2008,
Consumer Reports magazine reported that
South Korean-made LG refrigerators didn't meet their efficiency
claims. LG has since reimbursed consumers and modified the
machines. That's okay, said EPA officials. They
say they warned companies that intentionally inaccurate submissions
are a crime under Title 18 of the United States Code. However,
the auditors never received the warning, and further the crime is
found under Title
19, not 18.In the end, these problems may result in
consumers being double billed -- first in additional taxes to finance
the program, and then on energy costs of fraudulent products.
Update: Mar. 26, 2010 5:00 p.m. EST:
A spokesperson from the DOE sent us a joint statement from the DOE and EPA about EnergyStar, which they wanted us to share with you. As it was somewhat long, it has been posted in a separate update piece, which can be found here.
quote: practically everybody who is unloyal to their employer will do the minimum amount of work possible. and loyalty is a dying trait these days.
quote: A company losing money is consuming more resources than it produces: destroying value, in other words.
quote: I was rooting for these companies to go down considering the crap they pulled.
quote: When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic. - Ben Franklin
quote: There is no kind of dishonesty into which otherwise good people more easily and more frequently fall than that of defrauding the government. - Ben Franklin
quote: 1)and i don't think they are having as terrible a time as 2) the other countries that actually believed in mortgage-backed-securities...
quote: I do not think we are facing any kind of a crisis. That is, in my view, the two government sponsored enterprises we are talking about here, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are not in a crisis . We have recently had an accounting problem with Freddie Mac that has led to people being dismissed, as appears to be appropriate. I do not think at this point there is a problem with a threat to the Treasury.The more people, in my judgment, exaggerate a threat of safety and soundness, the more people conjure up the possibility of serious financial losses to the Treasury, which I do not see. I think we see entities that are fundamentally sound financially and withstand some of the disastrous scenarios. And even if there were a problem, the Federal Government doesn’t bail them out. But the more pressure there is there, then the less I think we see in terms of affordable housing.Now, we have got a system that I think has worked very well to help housing. The high cost of housing is one of the great social bombs of this country. I would rank it second to the inadequacy of our health delivery system as a problem that afflicts many, many Americans. We have gotten recent reports about the difficulty here.Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have played a very useful role in helping make housing more affordable, both in general through leveraging the mortgage market, and in particular, they have a mission that this Congress has given them in return for some of the arrangements which are of some benefit to them to focus on affordable housing, and that is what I am concerned about here. I believe that we, as the Federal Government, have probably done too little rather than too much to push them to meet the goals of affordable housing
quote: cuba? they seem to be doing fine...
quote: You're saying we can't trust democracy.
quote: That a larger government does not benefit us at all. You can have all the fancy programs you want, but, they ultimately cost all of us our own money and many of them are just a complete waste.
quote: SAT-like test before voting
quote: A big government is actually a good thing, IF you could trust it to look after its citizens' interests, which doesn't happen in practice.
quote: I feel bad that a 17 year old genius can not vote but a 30 year old that can not think hardly for themselves can--but, the seventeen year old is still a minor under law, and, due to being a minor, they are not granted full adult privileges yet.
quote: It is better to get them informed and active early on, then allow them to be oblivious and lead to the slaughter like many of the youth in our nation were in this last election when they voted for Obama.
quote: The problem is the voting system, have a SAT-like test before voting to weed out the unqualified voters and it will improve.
quote: You hate the government and that means you hate democracy. Feel free to suggest a better form of government or just leave.
quote: "R-values have nothing to do with how many panes of glass there are...While a basic window might net you a rating of one its downright foolish to assume that two panes equal an R value of two."
quote: The problems run far beyond mere submissions, though, Congress found. Companies with approved EnergyStar products could freely download the logo and paste it on any of their products -- even those which had not been certified.