If Energy Star isn’t safe, nothing’s safe.
In President Trump’s quest to gut the Environmental Protection Agency, one of the programs that may get the axe is Energy Star — the popular, voluntary certification manufacturers sign up for so they can display the little blue star on products that tell consumers they are energy efficient.
Energy Star is one of the EPA’s most recognizable programs. Eliminating it from the agency would be a perplexing move.
For starters, it saves consumers money — an estimated $480 billion in total since its inception in 1992. That’s especially impressive when you consider the annual cost to the EPA is just $50 million — less than one percent of the agency’s budget.
It reduces greenhouse gas emissions — an estimated 2.7 billion tons or so over the life of the program, an amount equal to nearly half of the country’s yearly output of GHGs.
And it’s indisputably valuable for manufactures. Achieving the Energy Star rating often means companies can charge more for the product, generating additional revenue that supports the creation of new jobs. The Energy Department estimates nearly 300,000 American jobs are connected to the manufacturing of Energy Star products.
It’s not clear that Trump wants to kill Energy Star entirely. The directive is for the EPA to move the program to a non-governmental entity. There’s speculation the government could even license the brand to a third party, perhaps an industry group — a tactic Trump himself knows well. But some fear that will diminish its reputation in the eyes of consumers.
“An internal industry label is not going to be as effective, is not going to be as reliable,” Lowell Ungar, a senior policy adviser at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, told Climatewire. “The consumers aren’t going to know whether that really is representing energy savings and savings in their wallet.”
This isn’t the first time Trump has gone after energy efficiency. The administration is also expected to begin the process of rolling back stricter vehicle fuel economy standards implemented by President Obama.
The attacks on efficiency from the federal government come as some states look to boost energy savings. In Maryland, the legislature is considering requiring utilities to increase efficiency by two percent, mainly by offering incentives to homeowners to install more energy-thrifty lighting and appliances. Those measures are expected to add 68,000 jobs, contribute nearly $4 billion to the state economy, and save consumers almost $12 billion.
In New Jersey, local utility PSE&G is asking regulators to approve $74 million for efficiency upgrades.
“Our filing today demonstrates PSE&G continued commitment to energy efficiency, which is the lowest cost energy resource,” a company executive said in a statement.
Like so many other issues in the energy space and beyond, cities and states will be left to lead, while the federal government lets opportunity pass it by.
Steve Hargreaves and Courtney St. John write for Nexus Media, a syndicated newswire covering climate, energy, policy, art and culture. You can follow them at @CourtSaintJohn and @shargrea.