Apparently, it’s a piece of cake to get Energy Star-certified — just ask the Congressional auditors who received approval for a number of ridiculous fake products, including a gasoline-powered alarm clock and an air purifier consisting of a space heater with a feather duster on top. Other fake products, including a dehumidifier, dishwasher, and computer monitor, were accepted into the program with no questions asked about fake qualifications (i.e. energy efficiency data).
Does this mean we should question all Energy Star labels? No — most companies aren’t in the business of submitting fake products to the Energy Star program — but the auditing process does indicate that Energy Star officials accept qualifications without doing background research. The New York Times noted that the “ease with which the auditors had fooled the program suggested that consumers and agencies that rely on the logo were paying extra for products that might not actually save energy“.
Fortunately, Energy Star isn’t the only green certification program available. The Energy Department recently agreed to set up a system of independent verification for products, starting with refrigerators, freezers, clothes washers, dishwashers, water heaters and air-conditioners. Gasoline-powered alarm clocks need not apply.