Fool me once, fool me twice…fool me 15 times?

One might assume that there’s a rigorous process in place to ensure that the 40,000-plus products certified with the federal government’s Energy Star rating are, well, energy-efficient. The labels influence consumer behavior, and the government subsidizes the purchase of these products.

Thankfully, the Government Accountability Office doesn’t make such assumptions. And neither should we, according to a new GAO report (via John Stossel’s blog on FoxBusiness.com):

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 certification 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.

That’s a .750 batting average — not for Energy Star, but for the fake products.

The manner in which the fake products were certified is alarming. One of the products, a computer monitor, received Energy Star approval within 30 minutes of its application, GAO reports. Four more were approved within 24 hours.

Another product, a geothermal heat pump, elicited no attempt by Energy Star to verify its efficiency claims, even though it was pitched as being “more efficient than any product listed as certified on the Energy Star Web site at the time of the submission.” Ditto for a dehumidifier that claimed to beat the most efficient product on the market by at least 20 percent.

GAO_air_cleaner-214x300To the left, you can see one of the fake products: Nothing more than a space heater with a feather duster attached to it, described in its application as an “air room cleaner.”

Applications were sent to both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. Each was equally bad, approving three-quarters of the applications.

Worse, the four bogus firms which the GAO set up to market these fake wares all were granted status as “Energy Star partners” without verification within two weeks of applying. Partnership status gives a company “unlimited access to Energy Star logos and other promotional resources,” GAO reports.

GAO notes that Energy Star claims to verify products’ efficiency claims after they are approved for the label, but that previous investigations by GAO and other government agencies have concluded that these controls don’t work.

Somehow, I don’t think this is what scientist James Lovelock meant when he said humans are not “clever enough to handle [as] complex a situation as climate change.”

But don’t worry — health care will be much better, I’m sure.

63 comments Add your comment

Peachtree Pete

March 30th, 2010
6:14 am

Do I get a tax break for buying that feather duster?

jt

March 30th, 2010
6:55 am

This just shows that the Energy Star Program is under-funded and under-staffed.

Must…….get……..the……..VAT.

T-Town

March 30th, 2010
7:35 am

Our government at work, what could possibly go wrong?

Joel Edge

March 30th, 2010
8:22 am

It just gets more insane everyday.

CJ

March 30th, 2010
8:24 am

Our government at work, what could possibly go wrong?

FYI, the General Accounting Office (GAO) is part of the government.

Road Scholar

March 30th, 2010
8:30 am

Kyle, are you saying that our beloved industry captains are lying about the benefits of their ES products? While one can’t cadone the governments lack of honest reveiw, wasn’t the info about how wonderful these items were prepared by the manufacturer? Are you saying we need a more honest and thorough reveiew? By the government? or by , say, Consumer Reports?

lmno

March 30th, 2010
8:37 am

Well, I think consumers do care about energy consumption. We need a system that works.

DontWorryBeHappyy

March 30th, 2010
8:40 am

Kyle says “But don’t worry — health care will be much better, I’m sure.” Instead of sarcasm, how about some positive solution Kyle? Got any? Would love to hear.

Dan

March 30th, 2010
8:49 am

Dontworrybehappy – The point is while no system is perfect, the market always does a better job of innovation, implementation and efficiency. In places where those things are lacking you can trace the reasons back to government “oversight” much like the problems with health care, the very fact that a business can deduct HC insurance and individuals cannot creates an ins market that caters to business. The fact that what insurance must cover is dictated by the gov means ins costs are higher.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

March 30th, 2010
8:59 am

What a funny story, thanks for republishing the GAO research. I would not have heard this otherwise.

just a thought

March 30th, 2010
8:59 am

Funding and staffing limitations should never be an excuse for bad work. They still need to take the time to do the job correctly even if it creates terrible backlogs. This isn’t the case here when bogus approval is given w/i a couple of days. Fire them for fraud!

HDB

March 30th, 2010
9:06 am

Dan

March 30th, 2010
8:49 am
Dontworrybehappy – The point is while no system is perfect, the market always does a better job of innovation, implementation and efficiency. In places where those things are lacking you can trace the reasons back to government “oversight”…….

Dan…to a point, you’re right…but it was the LACK of governmental oversight and the LACK of regulation that let the banks run amok…and almost caused the financial system to collapse!! While not perfect…in some areas, governmental oversight IS required!!

David

March 30th, 2010
9:08 am

So is the Energy Star Certification done by a government agency or is this another example of business regulating itself? Do the companies trying to acquire Energy Star status pay a fee for the process or is this just another regulatory agency funded by our taxes? I would think it should be paid for by the companies who want the status as a way to boost market share and show that they are “green”. This might help alleviate the understaffed review process.

both ways

March 30th, 2010
9:08 am

This proves 2 things, 1) that oversight must be effective and 2)that absent effective oversite, some businesses will do immoral things and fabricate information so that they can to earn a buck.

The issue is that instead of politicians claiming that the entities that report to them are not the answer, they should be showing us that they can improve the ability of the organizations to do their jobs. If they can’t demonstrate a willingness or ability to do that, why give them that leadership role?

Peter

March 30th, 2010
9:20 am

Perhaps you should go to the Bondage Strip Club for dinner Kyle….. I am sure it will give you new ideas for your column !

A Republican theme that is right in line with no child left behind, or “Family Values”.

Dan

March 30th, 2010
9:20 am

HDB it was not simply lack of oversight it was also insisting that the banks make bad loans to fill government imposed quotas, it was the wrong kind of oversight, which is typical the fact is if people paid their loans there would be no problem. Clearly some oversight is necessary but usually less is better
As far as both ways comment, yes some business will try to scam when oversight is lacking but the free market corrects that how many people are really going to fall for a space heater with a feather duster??
Not too many, but probably a lot more will fall for it after it has a government approval. It is the perfect example of gov interference making a bad situation worse. It probably double the time the scammer was in business

Will

March 30th, 2010
9:26 am

Kyle:

Sorry to stray from the subject at hand but…..

Let’s playing a guessing game. I am guessing that the arrest of the christain domestic terrorists for planning to murder police officers with the hope of inciting an overthrow of the government will NOT be a topic of discussion on the republican radio entertainers shows with the exception of the one that is slightly obese and has talent “on loan from God”. This republican radio entertainer will opine that the marxist democrats will try to tie this “sophmoric prank” to the republicans.

Other republican radio entertainers and republican newspaper writers, if they address this topic, will most likely open up the discussion as to whether or not this is really domestic terror or is it another step by the Obama Administration in suppressing speech and the constitutional right to bear arms. After all, one of the neighbors of these police and government haters is quoted as saying, “it’s just target practice and it’s in the Constitution”.

radly

March 30th, 2010
9:27 am

This wonderful little sham is brought you by the same folks that want to run our Health Care System. Remember what they say….”we’re from the government and we’re here to help you”…….can you say sickening?????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Politics and government….what a receipe for disaster!!!!!!!!!!!

Cheryl

March 30th, 2010
9:47 am

@ Dan – the Energy Star was self-regulating, the DOE was taking their word and providing subsidies for products which Energy Star approved. The free market AGAIN WAS self-regulating and the result was another possibility to rip off the Tax Payers by private industry.

Here is the resolution from the GAO report Corrective Action Briefing from the same report referenced by Kyle on page 17

Officials stated that based on a new Memorandum of Understanding
between DOE and EPA, the program will be shifting toward a more
rigorous up-front screening process. Specifically, according to EPA’s
Enhanced Program Plan for Energy Star Products issued in December
2009, Energy Star is in the process of identifying and certifying testing labs
and industry trade organizations that will begin to independently test
products in most product categories prior to certification. It is important
to note that the Energy Star program has been in place certifying products
such as computer monitors since 1992. However, 18 years later we were
able to obtain product certification for a computer monitor since third-
party verification of manufacturer efficiency data had not been
implemented by Energy Star. We support DOE and EPA plans to enhance
testing prior to certification.

Why isn’t in strange that HE didn’t tell the whole story. This isn’t an Obama or Government screw up, it is a Free Market screw up, screw the people, take the money and run……

Cheryl

March 30th, 2010
9:54 am

Further, consider this…. The Energy Star program has been in existence since 1992. For 18 years according to the report, it has gone unchecked by the GAO or the EPA to insure it was legitimately approving products for the subsidy. It wasn’t until the GAO under the OBAMA administration investigated Energy Star that we find out there is a problem with self-regulation. So, the opposite is true of what Kyle is asserting…… The people who are serious about slowing Climate Change are working to make sure as best as possible that our products we buy, and they subsidize are energy efficient as they claim to be. I’d say this is a positive find for the Obama Administration, not an example of incompetency. All we have to do is read, it makes their arguments fade into madness and shows them for what they truly are, either very maniacal or else incredibly not-smart! Either way, they are just plain wrong on this too! Good work Mr. Wingfield, ace reporter…..

Kyle Wingfield

March 30th, 2010
9:55 am

Road, David and others: Energy Star is a government-created and -administered certification of products. The whole premise is that this goes a step farther than any manufacturer’s claims about its own products; it’s supposed to be an independent verification. The GAO report demonstrates that the verification process is a sham.

For both ways, and others who seem to be confused about what was happening here: No private firm was involved in this investigation. The GAO set up fake companies for the purposes of testing the verification process. This was not an audit of companies’ claims — it was an audit of a government program. And the program failed with flying colors.

LeeH1

March 30th, 2010
9:55 am

The Bush Administration is still on the ball. Remember, “let the market regulate itself?” The neocons who ruined the country by starving government so regulators were not used or believed, are still out there. They want private gain and public pain. Whether it is in big banks or kitchen appliances.

Evidently, there is no penalty for lying to the government, or defrauding the American public by these companies.

There should be.

Kyle Wingfield

March 30th, 2010
9:56 am

Cheryl: This program has been in place for 18 years. Why is it just now adopting a plan to do the verification that it claims to have been doing for 18 years? And how do you contort that fact into the conclusion that this is a market failure? See my comment above…this was an audit of government process, not private companies’ behavior.

joan1

March 30th, 2010
9:57 am

This is not the America I knew or was proud to be a member of, anymore. Lots of petty bickering, while Rome burns. This administration, and yes TARP, with its bailouts, handouts, and attitude and intention of penalizing those who have worked hard and saved in favor of the lazy slugs among us, is devastating this country like so many locusts. The progressive movement is doing more harm than a horde of locusts. I am not sure what the answer is, because politicians seem inherently corrupt these days. God help us all.

Kyle Wingfield

March 30th, 2010
10:03 am

Peter, the strip club event was definitely a big mistake. Reportedly someone has been fired over the incident.

I’ve said it before and will say it again now: The GOP has an opportunity to make big gains in this year’s elections, but only if it can manage not to screw things up between now and November. I’m not sure I’d take that bet just yet.

Kyle Wingfield

March 30th, 2010
10:05 am

Related (to the RNC strip club story): http://bit.ly/b9OltO

Kyle Wingfield

March 30th, 2010
10:07 am

Related (to the original post about government’s [lack of] ability to do what it says it will do): http://bit.ly/cQfMQl

Jess

March 30th, 2010
10:08 am

The important thing here is that the global warming advocates get to feel like they are doing something to make a difference. I watched a show on HGTV about buying “green” homes. One family in Oregon was leaving their older ranch home to buy a home in a green community. The new house they bought was 50% larger than their older home, and the planet saving features included all energy star appliances. Other features included bamboo floors, and extra insulation, as well as landscaping with low water requirement. They were very proud of themselves in spite of the fact that the new home was 4500 sq. ft vs. 3000 sq. feet for their older home. I’m also quite sure any energy saved by living in the new home was offset by the process of manufacturing products to build this green wonder.

Bombon

March 30th, 2010
10:19 am

What a bunch of meaningless drivel. This article is so typical of right-wing press these days. If the base wasn’t so clueless, people like Kyle wouldn’t have such an easy time pandering to it with this high school fluff-stuff. Kyle, you’re darn lucky that your conservative fans come from a state ranked 40th out of 51 in terms of number of people who graduate from high school. You never have to write a piece that MAKES PEOPLE THINK. Your conservative readers demand nothing, and you never fail to deliver.

Radly, please note the word recipe only has 2 “e”s in it.

Foxglove

March 30th, 2010
10:21 am

Let’s see….2001 graduate of the Grady College, so that would have Kyle being born around 1980, the year Savior Reagan came to the GOP forefront. So Kyle’s worldview comprises supply side economics, shock and awe, WMD, misinformation campaigns, secret POW installations, and waterboarding. Yep, sounds about right for the blather presented.

RGB

March 30th, 2010
10:24 am

A Republican theme that is right in line with no child left behind, or “Family Values”.

What are Democrat values?

Intractable indebtedness. Reduction of moral standards of any kind. Acquiescence to our enemies. Lower standard of living. Cultural decline. Disbelief in American exceptionalism. Selective adherence to the Constitution.

Sometimes Republicans do not abide by the standards that adherents to the party generally accept. When that happens, these people should be thrown out of the party–especially elected officials. Vendors to the RNC are not elected officials, but nonetheless their behavior was tawdry. As a conservative, I’ve never given a dime to the RNC and never will, though I do support individual candidates. The RNC doesn’t have a monopoly on stupidity as the DNC this week attempted to raise money from the false story that racial epithets were directed toward certain members of congress while they walked in front of dozens of cameras and microphones. I don’t know what is worse–making false statements or raising money from false statements.

But every time a Democrat whines “I thought they were the party of family values”, I’m reminded that you [Democrats] cannot be criticized for not meeting standards that you do not have.

origamitrain

March 30th, 2010
10:28 am

False story? Really after all the signs and words that baggers have spoken over this last year I have no doubt at all about the truth of this story. No standards? We know hypocrites when we see them and you sir are it.

stw

March 30th, 2010
10:31 am

Origamitrain: Your post was insulting. Now go get a cold drink out of the refrigerator on your porch and take a nap. Your momma taught you well.

Jess

March 30th, 2010
10:35 am

Bombon,

So you really have nothing to say.

Ga-Guy

March 30th, 2010
10:35 am

The broad, general conclusions that could be drawn here are that:
– government oversight is incompetent, and
– businesses lie to the govt and the public when they are not properly policed.

Personally, I believe both to be true. However, fortunately for all of us, not all governmentt is incompetent and not all businesses lie. To pick examples of one or the other to “prove” a broad conclusion is both narrow-minded and, likely, biased. I seriously doubt that the Dept of Energy has much to do with healthcare administration, either before or after the new bill.

“Keep your government hands off my Medicare!”

Jefferson

March 30th, 2010
10:43 am

A man with a breifcase can steal more than a man with a gun.

CJ

March 30th, 2010
10:46 am

Kyle wrote, “Peter, the strip club event was definitely a big mistake. Reportedly someone has been fired over the incident.

A paper pusher was fired—so that people like Kyle could report “someone has been fired.”

Who signed off on the reimbursement for the Republican Party’s bondage club expenses? That person hasn’t been fired.

Who told the Republican consultant who incurred $2,000 of bondage club expenses that they would be reimbursed by the Party? That person hasn’t been fired either.

Republicans take their donors for fools. It remains to be seen whether their donors prove the theory correct.

Jess

March 30th, 2010
10:59 am

The intimidation begins in the health care arena. AT&T, and Caterpillar have both announced to their shareholders that they will have to take huge financial hits due to tax change provisions in the health care bill. AT&T will write off $1billion while Caterpillar will write off $150 million. Congress response. Henry Waxman wants to summon them to Washington, and has asked them to supply all of their paperwork related to their claim. So now we are having congressional hearings on companies communications with their stock holders.

Since the bill is already past, intimidation is the only reason I see for this congressional hearing.

Kyle Wingfield

March 30th, 2010
11:07 am

Origamitrain @ 10:20 a.m.: One asterisk in words otherwise banned from ajc.com blogs is not good enough. And no, two asterisks wouldn’t suffice, either. If you want to repost that comment, please do so without the near-profanities. Thanks.

Kyle Wingfield

March 30th, 2010
11:10 am

CJ, I’m not excusing what happened. If you’ll read the story I linked to in my 10:05 comment, you’ll see that others aren’t excusing it, either.

Like I said, the GOP has a lot to prove if it wants to make the gains it expects in November.

Scooter (the Original)

March 30th, 2010
11:21 am

Considering the EPA’s new Lead Based Paint Law going into effect April, 22, perhaps they will certify re-modelers in the same fashion. Lord knows it would mitigate some of the harm to people living in homes built before 1978. Man I love how the Executive Branch is taking care of us by legislating to the lowest common denominator.

Jefferson

March 30th, 2010
11:32 am

That’s fine, sorry just hit me wrong.

retiredds

March 30th, 2010
11:46 am

Kyle, speaking of fool me 15 times, how about the one below which I would caption “fool me all the time.” This sentence I excerpted from an article in the SFGAT (SF Chronicle) about the GOP spending spree. But what caught my eye was the last part, “who fear the chairman is making poor financial decisions …. party of fiscal responsibility.” Looking out over the past 30 years, since Reagan, the GOP has been anything but the party of fiscal responsibility. And, I don’t think they will be in the future either. They know how to borrow and spend very well, but to balance budgets and cut pork spending…. nada. They may fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time.

Steele’s spending habits have prompted angry complaints from wealthy GOP donors and party officials, who fear the chairman is making poor financial decisions and undercutting the GOP’s attempt to cast itself as the party of fiscal responsibility.

Hillbilly Deluxe

March 30th, 2010
11:51 am

A man with a briefcase can steal more than a man with a gun.

Exponentially so.

Hay que derecho

March 30th, 2010
12:44 pm

HBD,

The real threat from govt regulation is when govt regulators start telling the banks who they should lend to. This is the chief culprit behind the mortgage fiasco. Not govt regulation but govt interference in the lending markets. When lending institutions are threatened and coerced into making more loans to poor people in the interest of “fairness” and not creditworthiness the govt then becomes interventionist and not regulatory.

Take a look at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They are both a who’s who of former Democratic party members and these 2 quasi govt agencies are right there in the forefront of the mortgage default fiasco. Various govt regulatory actions are at the heart of the effort to get loans to all these poor people who did not deserve loans. As is typical with Democratic efforts to make the country more “fair” these actions backfired and not only is the whole country paying the price but the people who obtained these loans were not done a favor after all. In fact quite the opposite is true.

Junior Samples

March 30th, 2010
1:17 pm

Kyle,

Are you for, or against energy efficient products? Furthermore, what process would you accept to rate said products? Let the market decide? GM would’ve slapped a label on the Hummer.

RGB,
Ignoring the hypocracy?

Grammar police

March 30th, 2010
1:26 pm

Junior Samples,

Hypocrisy.

mit

March 30th, 2010
1:26 pm

RGB doesn’t give his money to the RNC but sure does love taking their talking points free of charge.
Intractable indebtness, this is a big word for you. Let us see… remember the country being in debt during Reagan. We didn’t have a surplus until Clinton ended. Bush took surplus and spent it…why? Because he cut the amount of money the govt. took in. Sounded good at the time but look at us now. Obama has been in office for less than one year so I can’t say much about that…which means neither can anyone else. Therefore, your big ten dollar word of the day is just you trying to sound smart. Decline of culture? Really? Exactly how do they do that? Oh yeah, thinking more about the people who live in the country besides just white guys. Sorry, you might be right there. I hate it when we give chances to minorities. It makes me have to compete based on what I know instead. I know what you are thinking, what does it matter what some commie liberal thinks. Well, I am not one of those. I was libertarian-conservative, strict adherence to constitution, all that. Well, you liked the Patriot Act. Bush could do no wrong. That is not strict adherence to the constitution. You would rather give up civil liberties to combat ‘terrorists’. that makes you a commie. So now glenn beck is a lib-con. Reality is he is an idiot that makes stuff up to scare you. Ya’lls insane talking points and repeated lunacy on fox news has me voting for obama in 2009 and if ya’ll keep this charade up in 2012 too. Ya’ll are an embarassment to the country. Ya’lls base of voters (the lunatic fringe as of what 2003) will never be enough votes to get elected. Saw Palin’s speech at tea party convention. Was she drunk, she sounded like paula abul on the morning program that time. Raving lunatic….what it sounded like. Embarassing.

Peter

March 30th, 2010
1:37 pm

Hey RGB……Democrats have standards that I see….. Being independent, I can’t speak totally for them, but it appears works like Love, Empathy, and helping the less fortunate are on the agenda.

The Republican’s don’t understand these words that I can tell. War, Hate, and Anger seem to be the Republican style.

Peter

March 30th, 2010
1:48 pm

Seem McCain…is the mouth piece for the Republican Party….a group that is not willing to work for the betterment of America…….Once their agenda is not followed they cry, and behave with anger, stating they will not work to help create a better America, only try to disrupt it.

Similar to how Conservatives are behaving in Texas, as they don’t fill out the Census form in Anger protest.

I don’t see how Republican’s make strides when Anger, not wanting to help American’s, and greed is the platform.

The strip club incident is a tell tale sign as well……Why would anyone in their “Correct” Mind think that going to a Strip club is a Political Function ? The “Correct” Mind part needs to be addressed apparently ! These are the leaders of America ?