The problem is that they haven't met a deadline for setting standards in 30 years. That's what the GAO told John Dingell, because he was curious.
This has nothing to do with compliance or enforcement, which is another issue, since there is no enforcement mechanism or even a way to know if the industry is meeting standards. This is just about setting them.
The good news is that I have just accepted an imaginary job over at DOE in the Appliance Standard Setting Department. As a result of the GAO report, they've set themselves an ambitious goal of setting the standards they haven't gotten around to setting these last 30 years by 2011, so they're hiring, especially imaginary workers.
It's true that I have no science or engineering background and have not, to my knowledge ever worked for the federal government, but really the only qualification for these regulatory jobs is that you've represented the industry you're going to regulate as a lobbyist. I haven't, technically, done that either, but remember this job is imaginary.
This is my first day, so I'm eager and hopeful. I've found my desk, put the photos of my family on it, and I'm already dialing the number of the Chief Lobbyist for the Appliance Industry on my cell phone. (I'm too savvy to imagine I can figure out how to get an outside line on a DOE phone my first day.) While I'm dialing, I'm googling "refrigerator" and "efficiency." I don't bother with "standards" because there might not be any right now.
I get the guy on the phone, and while I'm introducing myself, I see through Google that the average efficiency for refrigerators is 11.8 Somethings per Something. I say, "Listen Duke, we're getting all kinds of Congressional pressure about this now, so we've got to set an efficiency standard. We're thinking 7.1" Then I hold the phone away from my ear, because I know he's going to hit the ceiling, which he does. When he stops screaming to catch a breath he asks me if the federal government wouldn't just prefer to shut down the refrigerator industry right now.
"Calm down, Duke. We're just spitballing here. What do you guys think you could do?" He's breathing now, and eventually he says," Maybe 11.2, by 2014."
"Frankly, Duke, 11.2 by 2014 doesn't do it for us. The Democrats are in control of Congress now. I'm thinking maybe more like 9.7 by 2009, but we've scheduled an open hearing in three weeks, 10AM - 4PM over at the Hilton, so why don't you come by, we'll hit the ball back and forth over the net a few times."
Granted, we still have the hearing, a meeting to mop up here at DOE, but I'm thinking at most a day or two more of my time and this one is nailed. I've also had a cup of coffee and a doughnut while I was talking to Duke. Now, it's on to toasters.