Cut Energy Star from the Budget

Can the quest for energy efficiency be deadly? The horrendous London apartment building fire two weeks ago suggests that it can: One reason for the fire’s rapid spread appears to have been an exterior construction material chosen, in part, for its “green building” insulating quality.

And this wouldn’t be the first time that focusing on energy efficiency has been lethal. In 1999, a USA TODAY analysis concluded that federal new-car fuel efficiency standards caused more than 40,000 traffic deaths due to vehicle downsizing.

This doesn’t mean that EPA’s Energy Star program itself is lethal, but it shouldn’t get an automatic pass from proposed budget cuts. The program’s focus on energy efficiency ignores many of the other things that consumers want, such as affordability and low maintenance.

For example, in the past Consumer Reports, while supporting Energy Star, recommended against buying the highest-efficiency home heating and cooling systems because of their high cost and their poor repair records. And for several years the expensive high-tech dishwashers certified by Energy Star turned out to actually waste energy when operated.

Moreover, Energy Star isn’t simply a voluntary informational program. Buying certain Energy Star-certified products can get you federal tax credits, which means that taxpayers pay for some of those alleged energy savings. And in housing construction, Energy Star certification is increasingly required by local building codes. But if these energy-saving technologies save money, why do they need to be mandated?

Energy Star is actually about EPA’s agenda for saving the planet. The program’s website urges people to “pledge to take energy saving actions … that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help protect our climate for years to come.”

This has little to do with saving consumers money, and everything to do with the alarmist climate science consensus. That was the vision of past administrations, but it’s not that of President Trump. And as the London fire suggests, a single-minded focus on saving energy can have major unanticipated risks. Energy Star deserves to be cut.

Originally posted to USA Today.