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EPA disputes loss of “luster”

PROMINENT The Energy Star logo is displayed in a window at Home Depot in the Chelsea area of Manhattan.

The Environmental Protection Agency, which runs the Energy Star program, has lashed out at an article in Consumer Reports titled “Energy Star has lost some luster.” In a statement on its Web site, the EPA called the article misleading and incomplete.

The Consumer Reports article, published in its October issue, carries the secondary headline: “The program saves energy but hasn’t kept up with the times.” The writers described out-of-date testing procedures and misleading labels on Energy Star products, which the magazine’s tests showed were not as efficient as advertised.

The EPA quickly posted a response at www.energystar.gov .

“The Consumer Reports article misses the basic point of the Energy Star program,” according to the statement. “Energy Star is designed to help consumers find energy-efficient products that will cost effectively help save them money and help them protect the environment.”

Further, the EPA charged that the magazine confused the minimum standards program operated by the Department of Energy, the Energy Guide label overseen by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Energy Star labeling program administered by the EPA and the DOE. The EPA’s Maria Vargas said testing is beyond Energy Star’s scope.

At Consumer Reports, deputy editor Steven H. Saltzman said the purpose of the article was not to attack specific products, but rather to point out that testing could be improved.

“We believe in the Energy Star program,” Saltzman told Home Channel News. “We want it to be as effective as possible. It needs to be updated.”

For instance, some refrigerators are being tested for energy consumption with ice makers turned off. On this point, the EPA concurred, but pointed out that the test procedure is used to qualify any refrigerator for sale in the United States. “Consumer Reports did raise an important issue with the federal test procedure for refrigerators,” according to the EPA.

The Consumer Reports article recommends, among other things, a graded qualifying system, as opposed to the current pass or fail system of Energy Star. And better federal policing—or “spot checks”—of Energy Star-qualified products.

Energy Star is a 16-year-old federal voluntary program administered by the DOE and EPA that covers more than 50 product categories. Jean Niemi, a spokeswoman for Home Depot, a major retailer of Energy Star products, expressed satisfaction with the program. “We remain confident in the EPA’s Energy Star program to help guide the American Consumer to purchasing more energy-efficient products,” she told Home Channel News.

Also weighing in on the article was the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a non profit group advocating energy security. The group generally agreed with Consumer Reports recommendations for improved testing at the DOE, but took issue with the headline of the magazines article. “Overall, the program is achieving large energy savings as it motivates manufacturers to produce and consumers to purchase products that are more efficient than would be produced and purchased with out Energy Star” the statement reads. “As problems with Energy Star are identified, they are generally addressed.”

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