- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 1, 2007


The government has missed all 34 deadlines set by Congress for requiring energy-efficiency standards on everything from home appliances to power transformers, government auditors said yesterday.

Two-thirds of the deadlines have yet to be met, although many of them are more than a decade old.

Because of the failures, consumers and corporations stand to pay tens of billions of dollars more for energy than they would have if the deadlines had been met, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said.

It’s “a blistering indictment of a culture of incompetence and delay,” said Rep. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, who had a hand in crafting many of the efficiency requirements Congress has enacted over the years.

Rep. John D. Dingell, Michigan Democrat, who made the report public at a pressconference, said the delays covered many years and that he did not mean to single out the Bush administration. Some of the deadlines date to the 1990s.

Still, many of the appliance and other equipment standards have been in limbo since 2001 after a rush of regulations in the closing weeks of the Clinton administration, energy-efficiency advocates said.

The GAO said of the 34 standards, covering 20 product categories, 11 have been completed although all of them from several months to five years late. The remaining 23 standards have yet to be completed, and some are expected to be 10 to 15 years late, the report said.

The GAO said that if the deadlines had been met on the four categories of consumer products that use the most energy — refrigerators and freezers, central air conditioners and heat pumps, water heaters and clothes washers — consumers would have saved $28 billion in accumulated energy costs over the next 23 years because the more efficient products would have been available sooner.

In November, the department agreed to quicken the pace and finish new standards for nearly two dozen household appliances over the next five years — but that came only after settlement of a lawsuit brought by environmentalists.

Andy Karsner, the department’s assistant secretary in charge of energy efficiency programs, acknowledged that over the years the department has had “a simply abysmal” record on meeting efficiency-standard deadlines set by Congress.

“There’s no other way to put it. The past [performance] is in fact indefensible, but we are in fact moving forward,” said Mr. Karsner, who joined the Democratic lawmakers at the press conference.

He said the department has begun a program aimed at eliminating the backlog in energy-efficiency rules over the next five years.

Energy-efficiency advocates argue that new standards for appliances, home and commercial heating and cooling systems, electric motors, transformers and other equipment is the best way to save energy and money.

The GAO acknowledged that the Energy Department was trying to speed up the process, but it questioned whether the “catch-up plan” — as the report calls it — will work.

“The likelihood of success is not clear,” says the report, adding that the department had not fully identified the “root cause” of the long delays in issuing standards.

“The DOE is showing some signs of trying to move the process along,” said Bill Prindle, deputy director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a private advocacy group. “But again what we’re seeing is … pretty timid stuff.”

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