Whirlpool Corporation is reportedly threatening to back out of the EnergyStar program unless Congress grants it— and other manufacturers— immunity from consumer lawsuits demanding compensation for EnergyStar products that don’t measure up. A voluntary program run by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, EnergyStar’s credibility took a hit four years ago, when the Government Accountability Office successfully scammed it into certifying bogus products.
The report was a doozy. GAO investigators submitted an application for a gasoline-powered alarm clock. It got listed. They submitted a “room air cleaner,” and linked to a picture of an electric space-heater with a feather duster attached. That got listed too.Photo: Government Accountability Office
“Really, EPA wasn’t looking at every application,” says Shanon Baker-Branstetter, an attorney with Consumers Union. “The manufacturers were self-certifying.”
EPA made changes, says Ann Bailey, who runs the EnergyStar products program for EPA. “Since then, we’ve dramatically improved the rigor of the certification process and we’ve instituted third-party certification.”
Manufacturers now submit their products to an EPA-approved lab, like Underwriters Laboratories, which signs off. The third-parties also pull a few products off the shelf every year to see if they measure up to the claims. That led to 62 products getting disqualified last year.
“I think EPA has done a good job addressing the concerns that GAO had,” says Steve Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
Nadel thinks the current standards are high enough that he supports the proposed legislation, which would protect companies like Whirlpool from some consumer lawsuits, in cases where EPA has done a review.
“I think consumers tend to trust EPA,” says Nadel. Sales figures collected by EPA seem to back him up. Even in the years after the GAO report, the number of EnergyStar products sold continued to increase.
CORRECTION: The original version of this story gave the incorrect name for the Government Accountability Office in a caption. The text has been corrected.
The first investigators have reached the crash site of the Malaysian airliner in eastern Ukraine. Meanwhile, fighting flared in Donetsk between separatists and armed groups supporting the government.
The Sunni extremist group that calls itself the Islamic State is solidifying its hold on the Iraqi city of Mosul. As it does so, the group is building a track record for how it actually governs. NPR's Leila Fadel offers a glimpse of what life is like under the group's rule.
The FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies will soon begin recording the interrogations they conduct. It's a reversal of decades of policy and, the Obama administration says, a demonstration that agents act appropriately, without coercing suspects. Some big loopholes remain in the policy, though.
As the Israeli military expands its assault in the Gaza Strip, casualty numbers continue to grow. At last count, more than 550 Palestinians — mostly civilians — and 25 Israeli soldiers have died. On Monday, an Israeli strike hit a hospital in central Gaza, killing people in the intensive care unit.
Nearly 200 Dutch citizens died in the Malaysian airliner shot down over Ukraine. To learn about the country's response to the tragedy, Audie Cornish speaks with Thomas Erdbrink of The New York Times.
Nearly 200 Dutch citizens died in the Malaysian airliner crash over Ukraine. To find out more about the country's response to the tragedy, Audie Cornish speaks with Thomas Erdbrink of The New York Times.
A college friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been convicted of impeding the investigation into the attack. Azamat Tazhayakov was found guilty Monday of obstruction of justice and conspiracy.
President Obama has signed an executive order to ban bias against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees among federal contractors.
It's been four years since Dodd-Frank Act was signed into law. On the anniversary of this sweeping overhaul of financial regulations, Republicans have released a report that argues the law falls short on one of its main tasks.
Violence continues to escalate in the Gaza Strip. According to many foreign observers, Egypt must play a key role in any peace agreement between Israel and Hamas. To find out why, Robert Siegel speaks with Michele Dunne, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Online shopping's convenience can be tripped up by long shipping times, keeping retailers like Amazon from being the go-to place to pick up ice cream or deodorant.
That's why the online retail giant is experimenting with same-day delivery in a few cities, says Marcus Wohlsen, senior staff writer at Wired. These new trucks would come pre-loaded with items just waiting to be ordered.
"You've got this fleet of trucks that's constantly combing through city neighbords," Wohlsen says. "Lo and behold, somebody orders something that Amazon predicted they or someone in that general vicinity would order and it's already on that truck ready to bring to that person's door."
Amazon's recent interest in drone delivery has also attracted attention recently. Though those trucks "aren't nearly as sexy as a drone," Wohlsen says, they're much more efficent, and give Amazon control over more of the buying process. But filling those trucks and sending them out presents a big logistical problem.
"You can't virtualize that tube of toothpaste; you still have to figure out how to get it there," Wohlsen says. "That said, I think that companies like Amazon and Google are in the best position to make advances in the field of logistics because logistics is a very, very complicated math problem. That's what these companies prioritize. It's how they make money."
For Amazon, Wohlsen says, the move is all about trying to "overtake brick and mortar stores as the main way people buy things. Online retail is still a very small portion of commerce in the U.S. It's something like 6 percent of retail purchases. There's a lot of runway left for Amazon."