Doesn’t the Department of Energy (DOE) have enough needless programs and spending projects on its plate?

DOE recently announced that it is launching a new program in cahoots with the Consortium for Energy Efficiency in which they will award the producer of the most efficient television. Producers will compete internationally for the chance to stamp their televisions with a logo from the DOE saying their products are energy efficient, leading consumers to believe that they will save money on their electricity bills.

Maybe they will, but if a producer is going to make a product that’s better than the competition and will save consumers money, why is there a need for federal government involvement?

The television contest is part of the Super-efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment (SEAD) initiative. Launched in July 2010, SEAD has a budget of $25.5 million from the United States, not including a potential $6 billion they could receive from other government members of the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE). The CEE, stacked with board members from energy corporations, gives out awards to companies that they deem have energy-efficient products.

While a television award may seem like a trivial matter, it is a symbol of the larger problem with the DOE and its partner environmental agencies: DOE wastes taxpayer dollars engaging in activities that the market is perfectly capable of handling on its own.

U.S. taxpayers paid a total of $7.5 billion in 2010 for energy efficiency programs, which take the form of advertisements to encourage Americans to buy “green” and energy-efficient technologies. When the government promotes one good over another, it causes distortions in the market. DOE involvement ignores the fact that consumers can make choices on their own and that producers do not need mandates to make more energy-efficient products.

A more extreme program is the federal ban on incandescent light bulbs. This ban creates an inefficient market because it forces Americans to buy goods they may not want—and at a higher price. Not only is incandescent lighting considered better quality, but the fluorescent light bulbs are more expensive and do not have the energy-saving quality that was originally estimated. Just as with more energy-efficient televisions, if the fluorescent light bulbs are a better product, consumers will buy them on their own, so there is no need for the government to ban other bulbs.

Energy efficiency is just one area in which DOE spending is wasteful, inefficient, and unnecessary. Just take a look at some of the press releases on the DOE’s Web site:

Many of these programs are attempts at commercialization that are better left to the private sector. In fact, in the “Innovative Manufacturing Processes” press release, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu says, “These breakthrough manufacturing processes, technologies, and materials will help American companies to reduce energy waste and lower costs.”

It is not the role of the government to help companies lower their costs. They have incentive to do that on their own. Nor is it the role of the federal government to force certain technologies into the marketplace or attempt to dictate choices on the consumer. It’s time to get rid of these wasteful policies.

The blog was co-authored by Laura Stanley, who currently is a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: