February 15th, 2018
Energy Star Changes: Will They Happen This Year?
Here we go again.
You might have seen the news this week that the Energy Star program could be facing huge changes if the administration’s 2019 budget plan is approved as submitted. (Admittedly a huge if. As someone smarter than me once pointed out, this annual Washington tradition is a lot like sending a letter to Santa, though probably less effective.)
When the White House rolled out its 2018 budget proposal around this time last year, one of the eye-grabbing proposals was the “close-out or transfer” of the popular Energy Star program. The plan generated a lot of protest from environmental groups, and many in the door and window industry also pushed back. But by the time the final budget was passed, Energy Star survived — though with about half the funding it had before.
The 2019 plan once again zeroes out appropriations for Energy Star, but this time with a major twist. The program instead would be funded by “modest fees” from industry participants.
There are a couple of ways to look at this idea (if you’ve got more, leave them in the comments).
On the one hand, it puts the burden of compliance on those who pay for it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Many other industries self-regulate in similar ways.
“If we as an industry feel that Energy Star is important (and personally, I do not believe it is), then WE should pay for it,” said Bob Maynes of Mathews Brothers Windows in Maine in a comment on Tuesday’s story about the proposed Energy Star changes.
Maynes also had some choice words for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has administered the Energy Star program for the past several years.
“To me, the bigger issue is continuing to have Energy Star oversight with the EPA,” he said. “These people clearly are in over their head, have zero idea what to do with the program and make decisions that are short-sighted and completely out of touch with the market. Can anyone remember the last time they changed the requirements for Most Efficient, for example? If Energy Star ultimately survives under some funding, private or public, put it back under the oversight of the Department of Energy, from whence it came.”
On the other hand, the fees could chase off a lot of smaller companies who currently participate in the program, leaving only the major players eligible for that valuable little blue label. Consumers could suffer, and so could innovation.
“To build on its success, Energy Star needs to maintain its independence and its primary focus on serving consumers, and it need stable funding that does not discourage manufacturers from participating,” said Lowell Ungar, senior policy advisor with the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. “We think the program needs continued federal funding.”
It’ll be interesting to see how this year’s Energy Star saga plays out, but I don’t really understand why this is such an urgent matter. I’m a pretty strong advocate for government that’s smaller, smarter and more financially responsible, but do we have to kill off a successful program that only costs around $50 million to operate? That’s chump change for D.C., the place that used to think it was OK to stick taxpayers with the bill for $7,622 Pentagon coffee makers.
Anyway, stay tuned to DWM for continuing coverage of this topic.