There are things Donald Trump has done that seem petty and vindictive, then there are some that go beyond petty. They’re petty-plus. Super-spiteful and at the same time, deeply, deeply picayune. Things like killing the Energy-Star program.
Trump’s budget would get rid of Energy Star. The government labeling program for energy-efficient appliances and consumer products is on the chopping block as the president tries to slash spending so he can steer $54 billion more a year to the military.
It’s not that the Energy-Star program isn’t important—it has saved American consumers over $430 billion in electrical expenses, while cutting back on the pollution that energy would use. But it’s not really the program costs that Trump is after. The whole Energy Star program operates on less than $50 million a year, making it a terrific national investment. It’s so good, in fact, that it’s been emulated by many other countries.
Energy Star is on the chopping block for two reasons: First, the idea of saving energy, whether it’s with hybrid cars or LED bulbs, offends the rolling-coal conservatives who view an erg not turned into smoke as an erg wasted. And second because Trump has a personal stake in this game.
Energy Star is best known for labels that tell you how much you'll pay on your utility bill if you buy a new refrigerator or television. But it also has ratings for hotels, condominiums and office buildings.
Trump's properties tend to receive low Energy Star ratings. … On a scale of 1 to 100 for energy efficiency, Manhattan's old Mayfair Hotel, which Trump converted into condos, rated a 1.
Another day, another conflict of interest. What’s giving up insight into product efficiency if it helps Trump sell a condo? But even if Trump is turning off the lights on Energy Star, not every efficiency rating will die, because a federal judge was willing to slap down Trump’s actions.
The Energy Department is overdue on new efficiency standards for air conditioners, commercial boilers and a number of industrial items.
Federal law requires the Energy Department to set energy-saving standards for specific categories of appliances and then to update them every six years. According to the lawsuits, the department last updated its standards for commercial boilers in 2009 but has no current standards for the other appliances.
The new standards were prepared while President Obama was still in office, and sent to the Energy Department for implementation in 2017. Except, of course, the Energy Department didn’t implement the standards.
Trump’s energy secretary, Rick Perry, has prevented their enforcement by declining to publish them in the Federal Register, and argued in court that his agency has no obligation to do so.
That refusal “is a violation of the department’s duties” under federal law, said U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria, who ordered the department to publish the rules within 28 days.
There’s always the chance that Perry and Trump will look lovingly at Trump’s portrait of Andy Jackson and make this a “let him enforce it” moment, But at least these regulations stand a chance.
For Energy Star—which only saves Americans a tremendous amount of money while protecting the environment—the odds aren’t so good. The program was created by the EPA under the authority of the Clean Air Act, and operates in conjunction with the DOE to conduct objective tests and publish accurate information on everything from toasters to homes. But keeping it going would mean a program coordinated by Trump, Perry and Scott Pruitt.
Those three might hand out stars … for rolling coal.