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Bill Chameides

Bill Chameides

Posted April 16, 2009 | 03:24 PM (EST)

New EPA Guidelines: Chip, Chip, Chipping Away at Carbon Emissions


Dr. Bill Chameides is the dean of Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He blogs regularly at theGreenGrok.com. His Twitter handle is: theGreenGrok.

Slowly but steadily the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the leadership of Lisa Jackson has been moving to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through the Clean Air Act. Recently the agency took a different tack, using Energy Star.

EPA established the Energy Star program in 1992 to identify and encourage the development and sale of energy-efficient appliances. The concept is simple: appliances that meet minimum efficiency standards set by the government are given an Energy Star label alerting consumers to the savings these items can provide.

From computers and monitors, the first Energy Star products, the efficiency program has expanded to include water heaters, light bulbs, DVD players, and washers and dryers, to name just a few. Today the label covers more than 60 types of products, including new homes and commercial buildings. (See all products in the Energy Star program.)

Recently, EPA put digital displays and commercial refrigeration units in its Energy Star crosshairs, issuing more stringent requirements for these items to qualify for the efficiency label.

Do the new specs make any difference? Let's take a look.

Digital TV, Monitor and Picture Displays

Average increase in energy efficiency in EPA's new requirements, as a percentage: 20
Projected annual cost savings if all U.S. digital displays met the new guidelines: $1 billion
Estimated GHG savings, expressed in terms of an equivalent number of cars taken off the road:
     1.5 million
(Read more about the new requirements.)

Commercial Refrigerators and Freezers

Average increase in energy efficiency in EPA's new requirements, as a percentage: 33
Projected annual cost savings if all U.S. commercial refrigerators and freezers met the new
     guidelines: $275 million
Estimated GHG savings, expressed in terms of an equivalent number of cars taken off the road:
     400,000
(Read more about the new requirements.)

A Look at 2008 Through Energy Star Savings

Total Energy Star utility bill savings for 2008: $19 billion
Total Energy Star reductions of GHG emissions, expressed in terms of an equivalent number of cars
     taken off the road: 29 million
Total number of U.S. passenger vehicles on the road (in 2006): 235 million
Total Energy Star savings for 2008, expressed as a percent reduction in these vehicles: 11