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EPA Spotlights Energy-Efficient Products

November 09, 2001|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency is waging a national campaign for energy-saving products even as it battles the Energy Department over how much savings should be squeezed from home central air conditioners.

The agency launched a two-year, $1.5-million project to make four of every five Americans aware of its "Energy Star" label promoting products and practices that emphasize lower energy use.

About 40% of Americans now recognize the label on everything from light bulbs and consumer electronics to furnaces and roofing materials, EPA Administrator Christie Whitman said Thursday.

Whitman, in an interview, also said her agency is hoping the Energy Department will reverse its decision to adopt a lower energy efficiency standard for residential central air conditioners than one issued by the Clinton administration.

"We want to make sure that we are not retreating in any way, but obviously have an obligation to also make sure that the industry can continue to function," she said. "So it's a balance that needs to be struck."

Last month, her agency issued a sharply worded letter accusing the Energy Department of disseminating misinformation in its analysis of the higher standard's potential energy savings, cost to industry and impact on the poor.

A home's heating and cooling systems typically are its biggest energy users.

Most but not all the major air conditioning manufacturers have opposed the higher standard that would require their products to be 30% more efficient. Energy efficiency advocates, environmentalists and many consumer groups say the lower 20% improvement proposed by the Bush administration is not enough.

The Bush administration's proposed rollback to the lower improvement rate also has been challenged in court.

The Energy Department said the steeper increase poses too much of a burden on manufacturers, produces only marginal additional energy savings and would harm poor people because of the higher cost of new central air conditioners.

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