The Trump administration’s recent budget proposal suggests eliminating the problematic, government-run Energy Star program. It’s not going away, but rather it could be shepherded into a non-governmental entity run by an independent third party with limited government oversight. The program exists to inform consumers on how efficient your purchase will be and how much you can expect to pay in electricity prices.

But like all government programs, it has had a rocky history since being formed by the EPA in 1992. The budget says the EPA should begin developing legislation for transferring the program and any partnership programs like EnergyGuide to meet the Trump administration’s goal of cutting the EPA’s budget by 25 percent.

Under the Obama administration, the EPA has ballooned into an enormous agency that then-candidate Donald Trump said was killing American businesses with burdensome regulations.

Critics fear if the Energy Star program isn’t under a government agency, it may not be as effective or trusted. Others are worried that consumers may not know whether they are getting accurate energy savings if an industry can self-regulate itself. Since its inception, the label has been stuck on more than five million items. Even buildings can get certified. But the program has been problematic and rocked by controversy, leaving many consumers to wonder if the program is even necessary.

Energy Star controversies

Despite being under government control, the Energy Star program has been riddled with problems and abuse.

In 2008, an EPA Inspector General report found the Energy Star claims of reducing greenhouse gases were false and not reliable. Indeed, the Obama administration touted that the Energy Star program prevented over 300 million metric tons of emissions each year.

But the IG’s report concluded the much-touted savings couldn’t be verified and claims of reducing greenhouse emissions were based on faulty data.

More troubling, Consumer Reports, ApplianceAdvisor, and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy released a statement in 2008 describing how manufacturers were gaming the system through loopholes and allowing wasteful products to get labels.

Outdated testing rules

In one case, the DOE allowed refrigerator manufacturers to test electricity usage without the ice-makers turned on, which is not how they are used in a typical home.

The EnergyStar program allowed manufacturers to test their own products and the EPA only spot-checked a few test results. The EPA was also using outdated testing rules and standards to award the yellow labels.

And in 2006, a federal court ordered the DOE to update and fix misleading labels given to products in nearly two dozen categories featuring large appliances. Clothes dryers and air conditioners didn’t get accurate savings labels until 2011.

Abuse and fraud

A 2010 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report showed the Energy Star program is rife with abuse and fraud.

The GAO got 15 bogus products certified as ES compliant. They also qualified four businesses as ES partners, despite the companies, merchandise, and workforce being fictitious. Since that report, the Energy Star program started requiring testing in EPA-approved labs for third-party certification.

Prior to the Obama administration, the program was run by the Energy Department. Now it falls under the EPA’s purview. Industry leaders want it to go back to the DOE, which already handles minimum standards for large appliances and requires energy use be disclosed under the “EnergyGuide” requirements.

Kevin Messner, a senior vice president for the home appliance group, told EENews that because responsibilities are split, the EPA and DOE don’t coordinate enough. They’ve also been talking to anyone who will listen in the Trump administration on how to improve the program.