Eighteen years ago, the government set up the EnergyStar program to help guide consumers to the new appliances that are the most energy-efficient, cost the least to operate and help reduce the nation's total energy consumption. But recently the Government Accountability Office did a nine-month study in which they invented four fictitious companies that submitted bogus products for possible approval for the EnergyStar program. The fake companies submitted data indicating their devices consumed 20 percent less electricity than other models on the market. One of the products was a gasoline-powered alarm clock and another was an "air purifier" that consisted of essentially a space heater with a feather duster pasted on top. Most of the applications were approved without questions or challenges, leading auditors to conclude that the EnergyStar program is highly vulnerable to fraud. Another problem auditors found with the program is that once a company gains registration as an EnergyStar partner, it can download the EnergyStar logo from the government's Web site and paste it onto products for which it had not even requested approval.
By Anne Landman on April 14, 2010