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Energy Star Program Certifies 15 Out of 20 Bogus Products 275

Posted by timothy
from the so-have-no-fears-about-govt-insurance dept.
longacre writes "A Gasoline-Powered Alarm Clock was among 15 bogus products granted the coveted Energy Star seal of approval by the US Environmental Protection Agency during a secret evaluation conducted by the Government Accountability Office. In addition, four fictional manufacturers run by fake people and marketed with crummy websites — Cool Rapport (HVAC equipment), Futurizon Solar Innovations (lighting), Spartan Digital Electronics, and Tropical Thunder Appliances — were granted Energy Star partnerships. The root of the problem: Manufacturers need only submit photos and not actual examples of their products, and they submit their own efficiency ratings, which are not independently verified by the EPA."
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Energy Star Program Certifies 15 Out of 20 Bogus Products

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  • Like patents (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Friday March 26, 2010 @07:38PM (#31634208)

    The sheer volume of applicants makes it infeasible for a single bureaucracy to effectively test physical hardware.

  • dang (Score:1, Interesting)

    by mysidia (191772) on Friday March 26, 2010 @07:42PM (#31634240)

    I guess the secret's out about my Energy Star certified gas-guzzling SUV that gets 10mpg, which I drive a few hundred miles every day?

  • by Penguinisto (415985) on Friday March 26, 2010 @07:46PM (#31634278) Journal

    Pretty much. I for one cannot wait to see what they do with Carbon caps and labels for that one...

  • Just more proof (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 26, 2010 @07:50PM (#31634318)
    Centralized control is not efficient nor effective.
  • by bunratty (545641) on Friday March 26, 2010 @07:54PM (#31634360)
    That's why many people are calling for a simple carbon tax. We already tax gasoline. Just also tax coal and natural gas to encourage efficient use of fossil fuels or use of non-fossil fuels. Of course, we should also tax goods from countries based on the carbon intensity of their industry so we don't simply shift fossil fuel use to other countries.
  • by jbn-o (555068) <mail@digitalcitizen.info> on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:03PM (#31634432) Homepage

    Of course the GAO is a government office, so if I'm not supposed to trust the government...

    I'd rather not throw the baby out with the bathwater. I can think of plenty of places where the government is trustworthy: I trust them to bend over for corporate power in a heartbeat. Corporations no doubt benefit from a sham stamp of approval like "Energy Star" to help sell products. Private organizations do plenty of harm (Dow Chemical and Bhopal, war profiteering, financing campaigns that weaken consumer protections, the movie "The Corporation" is filled with more examples) and that harm is (by design) beyond any democratic relief or judicial oversight; we don't need more of that. On issues of life and death, war and peace, it's clear that the US government is plenty willing to keep wars, banks, and now HMOs financed with taxpayer dollars while its citizens suffer; plenty of examples of government-corporate working against the people. People need to fix this not think government is something to throw away. The power of government can be turned to benefit its people.

  • Re:Like patents (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:04PM (#31634444) Homepage Journal

    "You'd think that they wouldn't default to giving away their (supposedly) valuable seal of approval, though."

    Actually, I can't think of a single seal of approval, or certification, that means anything. The longer the "standard" has been around, the worse it is. It's all nonsense, IMHO. Reading reviews that real customers have written has proved more effective than looking for some certification which no one understands, and was likely paid for with cash money anyway.

  • Re:Just more proof (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sunspot42 (455706) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:11PM (#31634504)

    Except this isn't an example of either the efficiency or effectiveness of "centralized control". Centralized control would be if the government operated its own testing labs and certified itself whether products are Energy Star compliant or not. Instead, they're relying on the private sector producers of the products themselves to supply their own data, with entirely predictable results.

  • Re:Like patents (Score:3, Interesting)

    by iroll (717924) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:19PM (#31634584) Homepage

    Bullshit. If the EPA can't

    • afford

    to test them all, then the EPA should accredit private labs to do the testing and the manufacturer should pay the labs to produce certified results that meet EPA requirements.

    The accreditation doesn't even have to cost the taxpayer anything, because the EPA can charge the labs for it.

  • by superdave80 (1226592) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:35PM (#31634726)

    I don't think it is necessarily a question of HOW MUCH in taxes, but what it is spent on. Why do we even have a government agency to put a damn energy star sticker on the side of an appliance? Simply make all manufacturers print the power draw of their item on the side of the package. Done. Anyone who gives two craps about how much power something uses can look on the package. Anyone who doesn't bother to probably wouldn't care about the whole energy star thing anyways.

    That money wasted on the 'energy star' bureaucracy could have been used to fill the pothole that you hit.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:57PM (#31634916)

    It's too bad you haven't enjoyed our semi-socialized healthcare system, where half the costs have been fronted by the government, and the other half obscured from the real purchasers by government intervention (limiting what states insurers can compete in and promoting employer-purchases insurance in lieu of insuree purchased insurance). Unfortunately, however much it may suck in your personal experience, it's not a good example for you to cite of American capitalism failing. Fyi, freeways are paid for entirely by the government, although if you are complaining simply about too little money being spent, you should be aware that more money (at least as I've heard it reported) is spent on American healthcare.

    I have to wonder what your beef is with the telecoms--do you have a landline? Deregulation of the cellphone market is a rather famous example of where deregulation worked really well--it's an awful lot cheaper now than it used to be.

    I would like to point out that a single pothole does not a bad road make. There are going to be anomalous potholes in the highway whether in America or Europe simply because they layout so much road (America has the largest highway system in the world, which is also the largest public works project in history). In addition there may simply be a bad region (did you drive on every highway in Europe before making your comparison?) and certain areas are much more vulnerable to the formation of potholes due to local climate/terrain. America is much less densely populated than Europe, which means we have to layout a lot more road per citizen, and so we may well be making greater expenditures with inferior results.

    The point being that you take a tremendously complex multitude of factors and simplify them all into an entirely unrepresentative anecdote. Fyi my own experience with roads, healthcare, and phone bills has all been generally positive.

    P.S. IANAL, but if you really "hate paying so little in taxes," I am inclined to think that the IRS would not have a problem with you writing them a bigger check.

  • by NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:08PM (#31635034)
    In all fairness to this civil servant, there are entities more inefficient than the Federal Government. For example, there are the United Nations, the World Bank, and NATO. Most companies fail when they become this inefficient. It take a lot more to fail a larger company, and it takes a whole lot more to fail a nation, especially one of this size. There is a price to pay for efficiency. As Truman said, "the most efficient government is a tyranny."
  • Re:Like patents (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dynamo52 (890601) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:08PM (#31635038)

    The sheer volume of applicants makes it infeasible for a single bureaucracy to effectively test physical hardware.

    No, the problem is that this was a program written by industry lobbyists. It is completely voluntary and the test results are self reported.

    From TFA:

    In the instance of a bogus dehumidifier granted certification (an appliance also billed as 20 percent more efficient than the category leader), the EPA did request an e-mail confirmation on the bogus test data. To get the Energy Star stamp, the GAO spies simply had to stick to the story.

    On the plus side though,this was discovered by the GAO making it an excellent example of what well reasoned regulation and oversight can accomplish. Now if we can get a few Republicans to vote for the new Consumer Protection Agency that Obama wants in the Financial Regulation Reform bill we would start to see more of these abuses brought to light.

  • Re:Like patents (Score:3, Interesting)

    by thogard (43403) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:26PM (#31635238) Homepage

    I've been trying to figure out how they came up with the CFL saves 80% nonsense. The best bulb I've found was 64% when it was new and I have some that are past their useful life and are less efficient than incandescent bulbs. I'm not even sure how to measure the lumens from a non-point source like a spiral CFL in an accurate way. It appears that most of the bulbs that have useful ratings use the point that is the brightest and then use that light level to guess at the total lumens which will overstate the total light output. I've been thinking a better way to compare modern lights would be to look at a number more like EIRP used in radios.

  • by dynamo52 (890601) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:36PM (#31635350)

    You are missing the point. The reason government here can't fix potholes is because conservative business leaders have consistently pushed just the idea you expressed and managed to successfully disguise it as a populist, libertarian movement. Over time this becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. Government is increasingly under resourced making it more ineffectual. This combined with horrible campaign finance legislation has allowed industry lobbyists to essentially control the agencies which are supposed to regulate them.

    The fact that this was discovered by the GAO, also a government agency, shows that regulation and oversight can and does have beneficial results. Now just imagine what a new Consumer Protection Agency as envisioned by the Democrats could do.

    The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it.
    P.J. O'Rourke

  • by tompaulco (629533) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:59PM (#31635602) Homepage Journal
    Well, we could start in on Dun and Bradstreet, who used to be a reasonably reputable organization, but now they have resorted to the same kind of "important message" scams to get you to sign up as Classmates.com. I needed to get a Duns number from them for my business in order to secure a contract with a customer. I called up to get my free number, and I was unable to get one. The agent tried to sell me something I didn't want, but which i couldn't come up with an acceptable (to him) answer as to why I didn't want the service. He said he would give me a free duns number as soon as I could give him an acceptable reason why I wouldn't purchase their service that I didn't want. I got increasingly firm, and finally belligerent, but he was not to be swayed. Finally after 5 minutes, I hung up in frustration. I did not get the contract with the customer, and now I avoid doing business with any customer that is so far behind the times that they think a DBS number is something worthwhile to have.
  • by dynamo52 (890601) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:33PM (#31635900)

    Regulation and oversight is a tradition weakness of government anywhere. Sure, this can have beneficial results, but only if it is done.

    Exactly my point. Instead of continuing down the path of smaller and more ineffective government that has put us in this position, it is time to start rebuilding the regulatory structures that the corporate right has methodically dismantled over the last thirty years with the incessant mantra of deregulation. A well reasoned regulatory structure operating as an independent agency as Obama is proposing could expose hundreds of these types of abuses. Why do you think the Republicans are opposing it so strongly? If their contributors had to actually earn their money their fundraisers might not go so well.

  • Re:Like patents (Score:5, Interesting)

    by digitalunity (19107) <digitalunity.yahoo@com> on Friday March 26, 2010 @11:42PM (#31636456) Homepage

    Not sure, but sumdumass is entirely correct.

    OSHA runs the rigidly enforced Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory program for product safety certification program, including companies such as UL, ETL and CSA who routinely test products for compliance with UL, CSA, NFPA and FCC testing. For an additional fee, I'm sure these companies would be happy to provide energy efficiency ratings as well.

    As a part of the certification program for most companies, manufacturers receive regular inspections to continue using the UL, ETL and CSA certification marks to verify that the products that they make continue to comply with the requirements originally used to establish conformity to nationally recognized product safety standards.

    Once a certification is established, manufacturers cannot modify their product designs in ways that affect the safety of the product without a recertification review.

  • Re:wow! Nicely done! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by digitalunity (19107) <digitalunity.yahoo@com> on Friday March 26, 2010 @11:49PM (#31636480) Homepage

    I don't work for UL anymore, so I obviously do not speak for them, but I've seen their ladder testing and it's pretty neat.

    My girlfriend still works for UL and regularly performs UL/NFPA 1901 inspections on new fire trucks as well and it's truly fascinating(to me anyway) to hear about how rigorously new fire trucks are tested.

  • by dynamo52 (890601) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @03:46AM (#31637572)
    While I agree that libertarianism philosophy isn't in and of itself a left or right wing philosophy (I would consider myself to be a social libertarian), the vast majority of libertarians in this country are strongly anti-tax, small government types who respond strongly to the rhetoric the right has been putting forth. The problem is that the right are in truth controlled by corporatists who have spent millions of dollars to co-opt that message to their benefit while in truth limiting peoples avenues of recourse when they are wronged by corporate misdeeds. My opinion is that the best protector of individual liberties is an effective government properly overseen by informed voters.

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