It looks like the debate about Energy Star’s future will be with us for a while longer. Fun, right?

On Tuesday, the Trump administration unveiled its 2018 budget proposal. The New-York-phonebook-sized plan – and a plan is really all it is right now – includes cuts to a lot of programs, but the Energy Star close-out has really grabbed the attention of the door and window industry.

The possibility of waving bye-bye to Energy Star has also done something unique in American politics – it’s created an unlikely alliance between huge multi-national corporations, environmental groups and consumers.

Businesses are rallying behind Energy Star because it’s a valuable, government-sanctioned marketing tool. Green types love it because it sells itself as a cost-effective and practical program for energy efficiency. Consumers love it because they’re familiar with it and trust it – according to a 2015 household survey conducted by the Consortium for Energy Efficiency, 89 percent know what that little blue label means, and 75 percent would recommend Energy Star-rated products to a friend.

Of course, Energy Star isn’t perfect. Who can forget the gasoline-powered alarm clock that won preliminary Energy Star approval a few years ago? In fact, the Energy Star testing and verification issues raised by that GAO study were part of the very first story I wrote for DWM way back in December 2014. I was covering an industry stakeholders meeting with EPA officials for early work on the Energy Star Version 7.0 specification, and the window folks weren’t afraid to speak up about problems.

“There have been labeling inconsistencies that cause you to question the program,” Steve Strawn, the product compliance manager at Jeld-Wen, said at the time.

Specifications that change too rapidly, pushing up production costs, were another concern.

“We all know the movie ‘Field of Dreams’ — ‘Build it and they will come,’” said Jim Krahn, the former manager of codes and regulatory affairs at Marvin Windows. “Well, we can’t do it in six months. We can’t do it in a year. We need time. If you don’t give us time, we have to rush, and it increases costs tremendously.”

So could industry-affiliated groups do a better job at this stuff than Energy Star?

For one perspective, I encourage you to read Jim Plavecsky’s excellent blog that ran on our site earlier this week. A sample:

” …before NFRC and Energy Star came along, a standard method of measuring and reporting U-values did not exist. Therefore, reporting and advertising U-values in any manner you wished to suit your marketing program was fair game. The result was misinformation at the consumer level and frustration among many door and window marketing executives who felt like they were playing in a game without rules.”

For another, read the thoughtful comments that Robert Maynes of Mathews Brothers Windows has left on our website over the past few weeks. A sample:

“I pointed out several weeks ago in a similar response, why is NFRC able to survive without government intervention, and Energy Star is not? Does not the EPA, in fact, take the lazy way out and merely refer back to the most basic of NFRC testing for achieving the designation? If so, then what value does the program add, except a label?”

Will Energy Star disappear or be privatized? No one can say for sure, because as I pointed out earlier, Trump’s budget proposal is literally just a huge stack of paper with words on it right now. After Congress slices and dices it over the next few weeks, there’s no telling what it – and Energy Star – could look like.

“Presidential budgets have all the legal force of a letter to Santa,” Reason’s Katherine Mangu-Ward recently wrote. “They’re essentially the White House asking Congress for a pony.” That, she says, “makes wish fulfillment even more unlikely.”

And we all know how people feel about ponies. …

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