The EPA's Energy Star product labeling program has been getting some flak lately. In its October 2008 issue, Consumer Reports (CR) criticized the program as being too lax in its product performance testing, too dependent on manufacturer self-reporting, too passive in policing manufacturer claims, and too slow to develop and implement higher product standards. The program "hasn't kept up with the times," the article states. (Read the complete article here.) The article sparked a flurry of communication between Energy Star program administrators and CR's editors, and even merited a blog post on CR's Web site.
Kathleen Hogan, director of the EPA's Climate Protection Partnerships Division, issued a letter to the editor of CR, expressing disappointment over the article and its potential impact on consumer understanding of and trust in the Energy Star program.
EPA also posted a fact sheet on the Energy Star Web site addressing the issues and criticisms that the CR article raised. But the agency also acknowledged that CR's criticism of the federal test procedure for refrigerators (used as an example throughout CR's article) is merited, agreeing that it should be examined for possible revision.
In turn, CR's editors wrote a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson (download the PDF here), explaining the magazine's intent and reiterating some of its recommendations to improve the program from the original article.
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) got into the game as well, issuing its own press release backing some of CR's criticisms of product testing methods and calling on the U.S. Department of Energy to identify and revise test procedures most in need of updating. However, ACEEE disagrees with CR's claim that "Energy Star has lost some luster."
For now, there appears to be a stalemate-an agreement to disagree-between two highly respected organizations whose goals both happen to be helping consumers make smart product choices.