Energy Star On The Chopping Block?
The most successful voluntary energy efficiency program in the world might not survive the Trump administration’s determination to downsize government. A preliminary budget proposal from the White House would eliminate federal leadership of Energy Star, slashing it and related programs, and leaving $5 million “for the closeout or transfer of all the climate protection voluntary partnership programs.” Congress would have authorize such changes.
“EPA should begin developing legislative options and associated groundwork for transferring ownership and implementation of Energy Star to a non-governmental entity,” the spending blueprint says, according to sources. "EPA should also explore similar transfer opportunities for the remaining partnership programs as well."
The White House and EPA are still passing the budget back and forth, although President Trump wants to cut the agency's $8.2 billion spending by about a quarter to help increase defense spending. Congress will also have to sign off on those levels.
Energy efficiency advocates and state regulators say cutting Energy Star doesn't make any sense because it saves people money while benefiting the environment. A nongovernmental Energy Star program, perhaps one run by industry, would not be as trusted or effective, they add. "An internal industry label is not going to be as effective, is not going to be as reliable," says Lowell Ungar, senior policy adviser at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. “The consumers aren't going to know whether that really is representing energy savings and savings in their wallet.”
The 25-year-old program spends about $50 million through EPA and $7 million through the Department of Energy, according to ACEEE. The Obama administration, which shifted most authority over Energy Star to EPA, said it saved consumers and businesses $34 billion in electricity costs and prevented more than about 300 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in one year while improving ambient air quality.