While the Environmental Protection Agency grinds ahead with its Clean Air Act regulations to force reductions of carbon dioxide emissions from energy consumption, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on a different energy conservation program introduced by EPA the under the same law. Whether you are conscious of it or not, you have probably seen the logo for the Energy Star program stuck on a refrigerator, dishwasher or some other consumer product. The logo means the government has deemed the product to be relatively energy efficient. However, just because the government deems something to be more energy efficient does not mean it is. In fact, not only may it NOT be more energy efficient but also it may not even be real.

The GAO recently put the nearly two decade old Energy Star program to the test by establishing several bogus companies – consisting of websites, PO boxes and cell phones numbers – and then sought certification for twenty fictitious products. The results were dismal even for those who don’t expect too much from bureaucracy. At least 75% of the bogus products earned Energy Star certification. Of the twenty make-believe products submitted by the GAO, only two were rejected by the EPA or the Department of the Energy which is a partner in the program. Fifteen bogus products were stamped with the Energy Star seal of approval and for three others, the process was incomplete by the time the GAO authored its report.

With three out of four bogus products certified it’s hard to imagine that it could be worse but it is. Some of the bogus products that received Energy Star certification were no less than comical. According to the GAO they included: “…a gas-powered alarm clock and a room cleaner represented by a photograph of a feather duster adhered to a space heater…” Judging from the photo in GAO’s report, “adhered to” is a nice way of saying “stuck on with tape.” Perhaps this would be an energy efficient way to burn down one’s house.

Not only are tax dollars spent administering this program but GAO also notes that “… federal agencies must procure Energy Star-qualified or DOE Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP)-designated products, unless the head of the agency determines in writing that a statutory exemption applies” and “The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 increased and extended the energy tax credits for homeowners who make energy-efficient improvements to their existing homes.”

Good news about the program is that it’s voluntary. That’s more than can be said for what EPA is planning to do to the economy with its pending carbon dioxide regulatory scheme.