Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Government Power United States Your Rights Online

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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Energy Star Program Certifies 15 Out of 20 Bogus Products

Comments Filter:
  • 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.

    • by santax (1541065) on Friday March 26, 2010 @07:43PM (#31634252)
      Neh that's totally different. I'm pretty sure there are no bogus patents.
    • by NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) on Friday March 26, 2010 @07:47PM (#31634280)

      You'd think that they wouldn't default to giving away their (supposedly) valuable seal of approval, though. Most bureaucracies I've dealt with personally just ignored you if too many applications meant they would have to stay past 4pm.

      Anyway, way to go GAO. It sounds like somebody in there has a fun job-- "Johnson, I need you to create some idiotic-sounding products and set up fake companies to go with them."

      • 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: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Hadlock (143607)

          It was only two months ago the THX certification lost all meaning [slashdot.org] due to lack of testing.

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

          by sumdumass (711423) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:35PM (#31635338) Journal

          Actually, I can't think of a single seal of approval, or certification, that means anything.

          I'll expand your mind then. Try the UL [ul.com] and the NFPA [nfpa.org] seals and listings.

          Of course if something is not up to spec (lets say a manufacturer certified with one material and used another in production), then most people have a right to sue the manufacturers for not following the standards they were certified under as well as it being known that the problem wasn't the certification but the production afterward.

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

          by Idarubicin (579475) <allsquiet@[ ]mail.com ['hot' in gap]> on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:14PM (#31635738) Journal

          Actually, I can't think of a single seal of approval, or certification, that means anything.

          Underwriters Laboratories [wikipedia.org].

          • wow! Nicely done! (Score:5, Informative)

            by CFD339 (795926) <andrewp@@@thenorth...com> on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:53PM (#31636066) Homepage Journal

            I'm a firefighter and I've seen these guys work. They sent someone out to test our 75 foot ladder -- and the guy spent two days with magnets, iron dust, and a damn magnifying glass going over every single inch of the metal -- he found half a dozen micro stress cracks, marked them, and we were able to have them welded and re-checked.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by digitalunity (19107)

              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.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by slinches (1540051)

          Actually, I can't think of a single seal of approval, or certification, that means anything.

          How about FAA certification? There's extensive testing and verification required for commercial aircraft to be in compliance with the FAA regulations [gpoaccess.gov]

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

          by michaelhood (667393) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @04:50AM (#31637808)

          "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.

          Except that there is a difference between private certifications and Energy Star because our tax dollars subsidize the purchases of Energy Star qualified products [energystar.gov].

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

        by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:19PM (#31634580) Journal
        I suspect one of three things(or conceivably some combination):

        Regulatory capture: Regulatory entities frequently(out of a mixture of lobbying and the human social processes that come with working together), frequently start to identify with the entities they regulate. It's like Stockholm Syndrome for bureaucracies. Either because you fear the lobbying clout of people upset with your decisions, or because you really don't want to be "not a team player", you start getting really softball regulation.

        Bad incentive structure: Defining good metrics for productivity is hard. Defining bad ones is easy. It would be totally believable that, either by design or in practice, the guy who approves 10 products in a day gets more brownie points than the guy who denies 10, or carefully researches 5.

        Intentional brokenness: A common(and quite sensible) defensive mechanism used by entities or industries that fear they will face conditions harmful to their interests(either regulation, consumer backlash, or both) is to pre-emptively "show their cooperation" by collaborating with their friends in legislature, or in "objective 3rd party" organizations produced for the purpose, to establish carefully broken softball standards that strongly resemble whatever reform they feared; but have little or none of the punch.
        • One of the main mechanisms in "Regulatory capture" is that in order to have competent regulators, they must be hired from the same skill pool as the people working in the industry.

          So the main career path for those working at the watchdog agency is to work for one of the companies they're overseeing, or less commonly, the other direction. This will at least breed an atmosphere of "being on the same team", and also gives strong incentives to outright corruption.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by poetmatt (793785)

      who said the bureacracy tests hardware? certification labs are supposed to do the testing. it sounds like they aren't.

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

        by petermgreen (876956) <plugwash@@@p10link...net> on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:01PM (#31634418) Homepage

        Well the article claims that they just accept the manufacturers test data. It's fine for a certification agency to accept testing from trusted labs but they should still be both inspecting/testing those labs procedures AND verifying that results really come from the lab they claim to come from. If they don't it renders the agencies badges far less trustworthy.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by thogard (43403)

          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 th

    • by MrMista_B (891430)

      They need... two! Two beurocrazies!

      *evil laugh*

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

      True, but it does not stop them from establishing independent testing guidelines, and allowing bidding from companies who can perform the certification (and who are accountable when something receives certification incorrectly.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dbIII (701233)
      The only problem is that they pretend to do so.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by iroll (717924)

      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.

    • The FCC manages. Hell, they manage to test and leak pictures of upcoming sweet ass phones.
    • by toastar (573882)

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

      Why?

      Somebody has to do the testing, What does it matter who pays their pay check?

      If the Testing firm had to be a regulated by the EPA perhaps we wouldn't have to pay for all of it.

    • Simple solution: You set the stakes higher, until you can process them, and thereby become more exclusive. Let them do the work, if they want a certification. In way that makes it very easy and quick for you to verify it. (But don’t use money as a blocker, as that harms small companies who are great but can’t afford it yet.)

    • 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.

  • by bfmorgan (839462) on Friday March 26, 2010 @07:40PM (#31634220)
    I have long thought that some of the devices with the energy star label were not that energy saving. Now I know.
  • by Lost+Found (844289) on Friday March 26, 2010 @07:48PM (#31634298)

    Bernie Madoff stole 50 billion dollars right under the SEC and FINRA's noses. Unlike private agencies like the UL that face the threat of extinction if they ruin their brand, government agencies routinely screw up, screw the people they're supposed to protect and get more money for their failures.

    • 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: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I think you're both right.

        The fix might not be to throw the government away, but it may be to throw *this* government away. The whole notion that people can keep playing "games as usual" is a bit problematic. There is no way to lawfully force a collective "vote of no confidence" in the entire executive branch and fire *all of them* at once and immediately have new elections. Every two years we can at most turn over about half the system--and that lets the last batch of people get corrupted and gain senio

        • There is no way to lawfully force a collective "vote of no confidence" in the entire executive branch and fire *all of them* at once and immediately have new elections. Every two years we can at most turn over about half the system--and that lets the last batch of people get corrupted and gain seniority and get broken in.

          If you're in that seat today you're gone. I don't care who you are. Demonstrably, you have failed. Let's try someone new.
          Repeat in 2 years.
          Granted, the 2-4-6 year crossover will corrupt
    • by PineGreen (446635) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:11PM (#31634514) Homepage

      This kind of comments make me want to return to Europe. I've been living in US for a couple of years now, I have a 6 figure salary and you know what: I hate paying so little in taxes. Because you get what you pay for. In USA you have small government, no taxes and hence everyone gets routinely screwed up by private sector: I have never paid so much in telecommunications, so much in healthcare costs for the shittiest service ever and I just punctured tire on my audi last week because of a massive pothole on a *freeway*. But as long as you get screwed by private sector everyone is happy. And then because one gov service is bad, everybody starts screaming big government is the root of all evil. For fuck sake, have you people ever tried trains in germany or healthcare in UK? USA could have been such a good country, food can be so amazing in NY and multiculturalism beats everybody else, but if people were just a little bit more sensible brained....

      • 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.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Tom (822)

          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.

          Because if you leave it to the "free market" you are actually leaving it not to a market, but to marketing, which means the customer will be fucked in two dozen ways, at least five of which you never thought possible before. Among other things they will hide it in unreadable script, invent new metrics to cover up the true meaning, of course the numbers themselves will come from rigged "tests" and have a very distant relationship to reality, if at all. You will probably find tiny-print "this appliance uses 1

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by khallow (566160)
        Why are you in the US, if the EU is so much better? The US is different. It isn't Germany or the UK. That traditional distrust of government may well be one of the fundamental reasons why you have a job here. And to be honest, if the government can't fix potholes in freeways, then it's going to screw up any trains or health care that it gets near.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by dynamo52 (890601)

          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

          • by khallow (566160)

            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.

            So what you're saying, is that they are right.

            shows that regulation and oversight can and does have beneficial results.

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

            • 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: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        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 en

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by repetty (260322)

          > 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.

          Well, that and a half-dozen other major factors. In fact, the cell phone market is MUCH cheaper all around the entire world than it once was. What was your point, again?

          I love competition as much as the next guy but don't toot your little horn too loudly about deregulation success stories or someone will quote you one fantastic deregulation f

      • No one is stopping you from paying more in taxes. Really you don't want to though. You'd rather have a car than read train schedules, and you'd rather keep your six figures than pay for the large unemployed class on the dole in Germany and the UK. You do end paying a kind of tax on health-care and telecommunications to subsidize these services for the poor, though it's true both areas could use some better regulation. As for potholes--Americans find it inconvenient to have cobblestone freeways.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by 517714 (762276)
        Let's tally this up - Six figure salary, Drives an Audi, Lives in NYC. Yeah we are all very impressed - were you wearing an Armani suit at the time? The reason your telecommunications cost so much? You live in NYC. The reason for the shittiest service ever? You Live in NYC! The reason you got a flat? You LIVE in NYC! Do you see a pattern emerging yet? NYC is not a microcosm of the US - it is an aberration.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Uberbah (647458)

          The reason your telecommunications cost so much? You live in NYC. The reason for the shittiest service ever? You Live in NYC!

          Right, right. Except when we complain how shitty our telecommunications service is in the United States compared to other nations, the excuse given is that the U.S. is far more rural than Asian or European countries with far faster services. Except if you happen to live in a densely populated urban area in the U.S., then you have shitty, overpriced services because you live in a hig

    • by Fujisawa Sensei (207127) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:39PM (#31634764) Journal

      Bernie Madoff stole 50 billion dollars right under the SEC and FINRA's noses. Unlike private agencies like the UL that face the threat of extinction if they ruin their brand, government agencies routinely screw up, screw the people they're supposed to protect and get more money for their failures.

      That's because the free market Republicans and Libertarians want to make sure the government can't do anything; because the market is self regulating.

      When the head of the SEC doesn't believe in regulation, you can be certain that very little will be regulated.

      • Don't forget that it was an individual from the private sector that independently investigated Madoff's fund and tried repeatedly to warn the government, which continued to tell investors that Madoff was a-ok.

    • by Idiomatick (976696) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:42PM (#31634784)
      "a secret evaluation conducted by the Government Accountability Office."

      From that I take it that you just closed your eyes and fled from this story? Government busting government doing bad things. BTW, there was nothing stopping a private company from trying this, but government did it. I guess it isn't all bad? They are improving or does that anger you? I don't know these days with anti-government types.
    • And it’s your fault. They are your employees! Fire them, or shut the fuck up!
      If you don’t stand by your rules, but put up with shit, obviously others will walk all over you.
      (If voting isn’t effective anymore, there are other ways.)

      • Oh, and “but what can one person do?” is not an excuse but the cause of its own problem, because it’s circular reasoning. Others wouldn’t be the only ones, if someone started it. Someone — as in you (or in my case me). Not as in “Anyone but me, so I can continue to use it as an excuse, just like everybody else.”

        (Yep, I’m working hard on changing what I can in this world, so what I think is better for us all, has a bigger chance of coming true.)

    • by dmiller (581)
      You mean like Moody's or Standard and Poor's? Oh, wait...
  • Lawl. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cosm (1072588) <thecosm3NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday March 26, 2010 @07:54PM (#31634354)
    It is a sad state of affairs that our government has to set up a separate agency to analyze the (in)efficiency of a government organization that is setup to analyze the (in)efficiencys of other organizations. The U.S government is becoming a conglomerate of Department of Redundancy Departments, whose productivity is measured in how much money is thrown down the chasm. Glad to see my tax dollars at work.
    • Only sad in that non-governmental citizens aren't really free to do the same thing -- for them it would be "fraud" once they made their findings public.
    • Re:Lawl. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by moosesocks (264553) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:08PM (#31634478) Homepage

      Pretty much every company bigger than 10-20 employees has some sort of auditing system in place. Auditing is a good practice, and catches things such as this -- the only difference with the government is that audits are made public.

    • Unless you have an organization that is stellar in its honesty and efficiency, or auditors that really suck at both, it is routine for auditors to save substantially more money than they cost.

      Would you prefer that the government adopt a "see no evil" approach to auditing its operations?
      • by cosm (1072588)
        Expectedly, my post was misinterpreted, to clarify they attempted point:
        Energy Star is supposed to certify products with 'good' energy efficiencies.
        They were audited by an organization that analyzes organizational efficiencies.
        Energy Star was efficient in terms of being able to certify many products, but from the audit standpoint, they are not an exercising the quality of a should-be efficiently organization.

        I-R-O-N-Y.

        Plus, if they were to adopt a see-no-evil approach, instead of eliminating audit
    • I don't mind that one government agency is checking up on another. My big question (that I already know the answer to) is: What will happen to those people who let these bogus products get through the system?

      ***spoiler alert***
      answer: nothing

      So what is the point of checking on them if no one is fired/jailed?

  • by mobby_6kl (668092) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:07PM (#31634470)

    Where the hell can I buy the gasoline powered alarm clock? That's an awesome idea and I don't care how many energy stars it gets, I just want it right now.

  • Cool! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Un pobre guey (593801) on Friday March 26, 2010 @08:08PM (#31634476) Homepage
    Now I can get an Energy Star rating for my line of fusion energy powered penis implants and Clean Coal powered lawn mowers.
    • But I want a dirty coal lawn mower penis implant / knife-wrench! I like hot and steamy and dirty! ;)

  • everyone knows those gasoline powered alarm clocks are no good, i always go for the diesel powered alarm clocks the work much better, i tried the nitro-methane clock but it would blow a gasket every time it updated to NTP
    • by jgreco (1542031)

      The diesel model suffered from wet stacking.

    • by Barny (103770)

      There's talk of a new coal/steam hybrid alarm clock that could leave all these for dead, its both more efficient (per ton of fossil fuels needed to run per hour) and it has a 100% wake up rate, even among the deaf! (heat generated by the device exceeds that of a reasonably comfortable oven).

      Now our engineers are working on the next version, a fusion based alarm clock, it uses a lot less raw materiel than ANY similar units and has the added benefit of a small nigh light you can read by!

  • I've just been printing my own EnergyStar stickers. Why waste time with bogus product tests?

  • In addition, four fictional manufacturers run by fake people

    How can fake people run a company? I'd seriously like to know, because it could save my company a lot of money in labor costs, if I could get non-existent people to do the work.

  • ... is the sound of thousands of spurned perpetual motion machine inventors dragging their creations out of the closet for their Energy Star photo op.

    "Hey hon'. Have you seen my two hundred mile per gallon carburetor prototype anywhere?"
    "You weren't using it dear. And it makes a beatiful flower pot."

  • This is another well documented case of where government, especially big government fails (no matter how well intentioned). I'd urge readers to do some research on underwriters laboratories. A UL listing is de-rigeur for anything in new construction and has been for decades, yet UL certification is voluntary and the testing and listing of certified products is undertaken by a totally private entity. From the UL web site "Underwriters Laboratories® is an independent product safety certification organ
  • by gomatt (1064232) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:12PM (#31635098)
    i had a friend with a gasoline powered alarm clock. he started it up when we went to sleep. guess its no good, because no matter how loud it was, he never woke up.
  • by presidenteloco (659168) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:57PM (#31635556)

    So let's say there's two of us and we only need a 12 CU FT refrigerator, but I like beer a lot so I buy a 26 CU FT Energy Star fridge.

    The standard tells me I did a good thing, but I know, deep inside, that I'm being an environmental bonehead.

    I just bought the hybrid humvee of refrigerators, and I got a gold star for it.

Nobody said computers were going to be polite.

Working...