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Federal budget cuts trim energy and environmental programs

Consumer Reports News: April 14, 2011 11:42 AM

The House and Senate are set to vote today on legislation that would cut the current budget by $38 billion including deep cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency and programs that fund energy efficiency and renewable energy efforts.

The EPA would take one of the largest hits, according to budget documents on the website of the New York Times. The agency’s budget would be reduced by $1.6 billion, or 16 percent from last year’s level. A representative of Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, says the cuts are a case of false economy that could cost the country more in the long run.

“The 2011 budget-cut proposals cut many cost-effective programs that will end up costing American consumers more than [the cuts] save,” said Shannon Baker-Branstetter, Policy Counsel, Energy and Environment for Consumers Union. “Pulling more than $2 billion from the EPA and [Department of Energy] budgets will undermine the huge strides made in promoting energy efficiency through Energy Star, weatherization and other efficiency initiatives. These have saved consumers money on their energy bills and protect them against price spikes.”

Whether the Energy Star program, which the DOE and EPA jointly administer, will be affected is not clear. Baker-Branstetter said the federal agencies will have to detail the cuts to reach the new funding limits within 30 days. “When it comes to Energy Star, there will obviously be less money for developing newer efficiency standards and enforcement,” she said, adding that the DOE had stepped up enforcing standards over the past year.

In a recent report on energy, Consumer Reports advocated that Energy Star standards be strengthened. That said, in our testing we have found some products that both perform well and save energy. Here’s a quick list:

Gian Trotta

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