For those who missed our April Fool's joke yesterday, the EU is not planning a ban on all light bulbs - it spent the day doing something far more craven and stupid.
The move to change the A-G energy labelling system for TVs and household appliances is little short of a disgrace - the kind of spineless decision that explains precisely why so many people are disillusioned with politicians and believe the whole sorry lot of them are in the pocket of old school industry lobbyists.
From next year the A-G labels that appear on household appliances such as fridges, freezers, washing machines and TVs and are recognised and understood by 90 per cent of Europeans will be augmented by new "dynamic" labels such as A-20% and A-60% intended to designate how much better than A rated a product is.
So anyone entering a shop and purchasing in good faith an appliance with a nice green label and A rating will not have one of the most energy efficient products on the market, they will have a product that could be up to 60 per cent worse than the best in class.
Confused? You certainly will be.
In a statement that admirably demonstrates politicians' ability to enter a parallel universe governed by entirely different rules of logic and human behaviour as and when it suits, EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs insisted that the new energy label is "very clear for consumers", adding that the new "beyond A" classes would help accelerate the "race for top efficient products".
It isn't and it won't.
Here's what will really happen.
On the most part customers will continue to see a green label and an A-rating and buy those products, blissfully unaware of the fact that if the labelling scheme had been updated as it should have been the A-rated product they have purchased would have carried a C or D label.
Where environmentally-conscious customers do try to seek out a "Beyond A" product they will have to navigate an array of labels that make it difficult to know which appliances really are the best in class. Is 20 per cent better than A good, or should you be looking for 60 per cent better than A? Who knows? Who cares?
Meanwhile, manufacturers will know that A products will look "good enough" to most customers and will therefore have less of an incentive to invest in developing more energy efficient products. And where they do deliver "Beyond A" products they will charge a hefty premium for them, safe in the knowledge that the commodity end of the market will be happy to hover around the standard A label that has now not been updated in ten years.
It is not hard to see how this has been allowed to happen.
Legislators realised that improvements in the energy efficiency of products over the past decade, driven in large part by the A-G labelling scheme, meant that 70 per cent of appliances sold were carrying the A rating. As such there was a need to update the scheme to ensure that customers really could pick out the best in class, and various proposals were drawn up.
At which point industry lobbyists arrived and pointed out that if you took the blindingly obvious route of updating the standards by which labels were awarded they would have to relabel many of their A products as C or D products - and they couldn't very well do that "in the current economic climate".
So rather than updating a scheme that had been proved to work over the past decade and protecting the interests of consumers and the environment (not to mention those manufacturers who had genuinely invested in developing the most energy efficient products available) Brussels instead passed messy new rules that will only serve to confuse the very people the EU claims to represent.
Lord Hunt, minister for sustainability at Defra, said he was "disappointed" by the decision. I can only hope he was being diplomatic. Given the contemptible way the EU has just undermined all its rhetoric on energy efficiency and the environment, I'd argue he should be more apoplectic than disappointed.
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