Truth in Labeling?

According to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, it looks like just about anything can be deemed energy-efficient by the federal government these days. The GAO covertly submitted fake products to the Energy Star program to see if they would be approved. No surprise:  Most of them were.

In total, 15 of the 20 dubious products submitted were awarded the certification. One product was actually a gas-powered alarm clock … let the thought of that set in for a minute. Another was a feather duster attached to a space heater, dubbed a “room cleaner.” One of the fake products was actually approved within 30 minutes of submission. Now, that’s efficiency!

What’s particularly troubling is that Americans are often incentivized through various subsidies and tax rebates by the federal government to purchase products with the Energy Star seal as a means of saving the environment and reducing energy costs — much to the glee of the lobbyists for those producing such items. Americans could be nudged to actually purchase non-energy-efficient products.

So, not only can lobbyists for actual energy-efficient products use government to boost their sales, lobbyists for non-green products can as well. Everyone is on board this gravy train.

The GAO report concludes by suggesting that third-party testing and a “more rigorous” screening process might alleviate the fraud. Naturally, no serious question was raised as to whether government should be involved in such a rating system in the first place. Questions like that would potentially lead to one less government program — a threat to bureaucrats and lobbyists alike.

So, instead of a fraud-filled government program that favors some manufacturers over others based on political considerations, we’ll be left with a government program with less fraud that still favors some manufacturers over others based on political considerations. Somehow, I don’t feel any better about this.

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