Energy Star test clouds fed rating

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Sure, you love that gleaming new refrigerator in the kitchen.

She’s a beaut, all right. Ice and hot water in the door. Beverage chiller. French doors, bottom freezer and retractable water filter.

Best of all, an Energy Star rating that’s saving you $75 a year over regular refrigerators.

Maybe.

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That bit of doubt was introduced last week by government investigators who found the U.S. Energy Department and Environmental Protection Agency really don’t test these claims.

The General Accountability Office report was initiated by Maine Sen. Susan Collins, the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Investigators won Energy Star approval for a variety of dummy products, including a gasoline-powered alarm clock and a room air cleaner that was actually a space heater with a feather duster and fly strips attached.

Fifteen phony GAO products, including the alarm clock and air cleaner, won the environmental seal of approval from the federal government.

The Energy Star project is supposed to help consumers select the most efficient products on the market.

However, the GAO created four dummy companies which easily became Energy Star partners, giving them access to the program’s logos and other promotional resources.

Judging by the items approved, it’s impossible to believe regulators even read the product descriptions. For instance, the energy efficient alarm clock was said to be 1.5 feet high and 15 inches wide and powered by gasoline.

Yet it failed to raise any eyebrows with regulators.

The result, investigators said, is a program “vulnerable to fraud and abuse.”

Collins said “taxpayers are shortchanged twice” by the lax oversight, when they are willing to pay more for Energy Star products and when taxpayer dollars are spent encouraging Energy Star sales.

We have learned over and over that self-regulation often means no regulation. The federal government should either do the testing or drop the Energy Star program.

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