The Trump administration wants to end the EnergyStar program – you might know it from labels that mark the most energy-efficient appliances when you shop for a TV, refrigerator or computer.
Nives Dolsak and Aseem Prakash of the University of Washington told KUOW’s Emily Fox that ending the program doesn’t make sense, for a number of reasons.
“Businesses love it. Consumers love it. Everybody loves it,” said Prakash, director of the UW Center for Environmental Politics.
EnergyStar is different from EnergyGuide. The latter's yellow tags are required on major appliances. EnergyStar marks the most efficient items, and the program is voluntary.
So why ax EnergyStar? Prakash says a rationale for the Trump administration can be found in EnergyStar’s connection to the fight against climate change. The EnergyStar website touts its role in reducing greenhouse gases since the program’s inception in 1992 (under President George H.W. Bush – yes, a Republican). And, Prakash says, that makes it a target under Trump.
“Anything that has to do with climate change has to be purged,” he said. “So EnergyStar is collateral damage.”
Prakash and Dolsak, associate director of the UW School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, say there are lots of reasons to keep EnergyStar:
There’s Republican support: Prakash said it has maintained GOP backing throughout its history because it coheres to the party ideology by being voluntary.
“It’s not being seen as an imposition on the industry, it’s not being seen as reducing jobs. It’s creating new jobs,” Dolsak said. “From the perspective and criteria of the new administration, there is really no reason to shut down EnergyStar.”
It’s good for consumers: “You lower your water bills, you lower you energy bills,” Prakash said. “From the aspect of society you take less resources and you pollute less.”
Creates a “market for virtue.” “It rewards those businesses that have those technologies, who have the low-cost ways of making the products that customers want,” Dolsak said. “Essentially it’s assisting the producers and the consumers to identify the products and make progress environmentally, technologically and so on.”
Marginal fiscal impact. “The EPA spends about $50 million and the Department of Energy ponies up another $7 million to $9 million,” Prakash said.
He said under the administration plan, the government would end its support and an outside third party would come in to run the program, financing it with fees from participating companies. The problem, Prakash said, is that the credibility of the label could be undermined.
Prakash and Dolsak said environmental activists should be reframing their arguments if they want to save programs like EnergyStar.
That means clearly defining the benefits of such programs and identifying their constituencies, Prakash said.
“Environmentalists work for the people,” he said. “And secure and help real jobs.”