There is No Light Bulb “Ban”

July 11th, 2011 at 7:55 am | 129 Comments |

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As has been written about here before, a group of GOP lawmakers, including Joe Barton (TX) and Michele Bachmann (MN), have stirred up—along with their talk radio and Fox News cohorts—public concern over what they say is a looming “ban” on incandescent light bulbs.

There is no looming ban or phase out of incandescent bulbs. The entire hullabaloo is based on a fictitious claim manufactured by Barton.

All major lighting manufacturers, including Philips, Sylvania and GE, currently produce and sell incandescent light bulbs that meet or exceed the new standards (with no compromise in functionality). In fact, the lighting industry helped craft the 2007 legislation with the full understanding that they could produce incandescent bulbs that meet them.

Unfortunately, these easy-to-prove facts have not prevented Barton, Bachmann and others from pushing legislation to scuttle the new standards. Barton’s legislation, dubbed “The Better Use of Light Bulbs Act” (H.R. 2417), is scheduled for a floor vote in the House of Representatives this evening.

The bulb ban rhetoric is a deliberate misrepresentation of a provision of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (ESIA) that sets efficiency standards for general-purpose screw-in incandescent light bulbs. The new standards—for what the industry calls “medium screw-based bulbs”—are set to take effect in January.

Major lighting manufacturers helped draft the new standards so that they could avoid a patchwork of state standards. They are fighting the repeal proposal because it threatens to strand the investments they have made to retool and produce lighting products that meet the standards.

In addition to claiming that the incandescent bulb is being banned and that we are all going to be forced to use compact fluorescent lighting (CFL), Barton is also saying that bulbs meeting the new standards are cost prohibitive.

Again, not true. A Philips incandescent bulb that meets the new standards currently sells for $1.49, lasts about 50 percent longer than older incandescent bulbs, and saves consumers more than $3.00 in energy expenditures. For four bucks you can buy an incandescent that lasts 3000 hours and nets you more than $10 in energy savings.

If you want to save even more energy you can buy CFL or LED bulbs. While LEDs cost more, the energy savings are about $150 per bulb and they last so long you might want to bequeath them to your children.

Barton’s irresponsible and embarrassing legislation would accomplish nothing good. It would provide consumers with inferior products that burn out faster and result in higher energy bills. It would threaten the lighting industry’s investment dollars. It would waste energy and result in more pollution.

And for what, a fanciful narrative about how the big bad government is taking away our lighting choices?

The actual genesis of this narrative was last year’s battle over who would chair the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Barton, who wanted a waiver to serve another term as chairman, decided to misrepresent the lighting standards in an attack on Fred Upton, his opponent, for helping craft them. Barton passed this accusation along to his pals on talk radio and the rest is history.

The total lunacy of Barton’s legislation caused one bright bulb in the GOP caucus, Roscoe Bartlett (Md) to fire off a Dear Colleague letter urging other members to oppose the bill and pointing out in bold type “There is NO BAN on incandescent bulbs to repeal.

Legislation establishing common-sense efficiency standards for energy-using equipment has traditionally enjoyed overwhelming support from conservatives. The first such legislation was signed into law 25 years ago by President Ronald Reagan. Thanks to the legislation enacted by Reagan and similar laws signed by his successors, Americans are saving billions of dollars on their utility bills.

Waste is not conservative, and voting to pass Barton’s whacky BULB Act, which is based on a totally fictitious premise, would be indefensible.

Barton has already managed to bully Upton into pulling a Pawlenty and reversing course. It will be interesting to see how many other Republicans are willing to suspend reality and venture into Barton’s fantasyland.

Recent Posts by David Jenkins



129 Comments so far ↓

  • Raskolnik

    Churl,

    You sound like a buggy enthusiast complaining about those newfangled “horseless carriages.” If the quality of the light is the same, and they’re still incandescent, who cares what the wattage is? I hate fluorescent bulbs, and LEDs give me a headache, but this is entirely about how much energy they consume and nothing else at all whatsoever. Unless you like paying an extra 28% on your electricity bill for some unfathomable reason, there is no reason to care.

    • Churl

      Raskolnik, and that isn’t an answer to my question, either.

      Perhaps I should clarify, the headline of this particular FF post says that there is no light bulb ban. Many salvos of heavy verbal artillery were exchanged about whether or not this is true but results are inconclusive. A simple yes or no to my question with some references for backup would, I think, settle the question.

      Now I know that “there are those who” like to respond to questions by saying “you’re in the pay of the big xxx industry”, “you’re misled by those in the pay of the big xxx industry”, “Rush Limbaugh programmed you to say this”, or “you’re just plain stupid”. But this is not really a sufficient answer to a specific question and surely someone of your intellectual stature can do better than that.

      • Panta Rei

        Churl,
        RE “A simple yes or no (if it’s a ban), with some references for backup”

        Yes it is a ban,
        not just because setting standards that do not allow some products obviously bans them,
        but it is also – as defined – an effective ban on incandescent technology itself.

        ALL known general service incandescents including the touted halogens replacements
        are therefore progressively banned in the USA over coming years,
        as per the 2007 EISA legislation and the 45 lumen per Watt end regulation,
        the Act being referenced and linked below in relevant sections
        http://freedomlightbulb.blogspot.com/2011/07/yes-it-is-ban.html
        More on regulations and official links http://ceolas.net/#li01inx

        Of course the temporarily allowed Halogen-type incandescents are different in light quality etc anyway, and are not popular either with politicians or consumers due to marginal savings for a much higher price.
        No sponsored subsidised “Halogen replacement programs” as with CFL programs throughout California, Ohio, and other states, and in many municipalities across the nation.

        Also, you might see my other more extensive replies on the topic, in the comments here.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    Raskolnik, they got great LED’s out now that people can not even distinguish between being an LED and an incandescent.

    and what kind of computer monitor do you have?

    • NikFromNYC

      I must note something about the futility of this bill. There is already available an excluded-from-the-ban version of incandescents from Amazon.com and online bulb sites that only cost about double of already cheap normal bulbs, namely rough service bulbs that have beefier filaments and are thus *less* efficient than standard bulbs. This loophole will be outed soon after the ban takes effect, assuming it does, and just like other types of prohibition will lead to a rebellion against the law, making them cool and popular!

      From the bill:

      ‘‘(ii) EXCLUSIONS.—The term ‘general service
      incandescent lamp’ does not include the following
      incandescent lamps:

      ‘‘(XII) A rough service lamp.

      See here:
      http://www.amazon.com/s/180-8568000-2390817?ie=UTF8&tag=mozilla-20&index=blended&link_code=qs&field-keywords=rough%20service%20100w&sourceid=Mozilla-search

  • Raskolnik

    Frumple,

    I am using a monochrome (green) CRT, 8 inches across

  • Raskolnik

    Churl, I assume you’re referring to this question:

    “Will I be able legally to buy in America 100 watt and lower incandescent light bulbs anytime in the future I want to without special taxes or permissions to do so?”

    As far as I can tell, the answer is yes, you will theoretically be able to buy them, but no one will be making them because all the light bulb manufacturers will be making light bulbs which conform to the new regulations.

    However, I would just like to point out, I think you are confusing wattage with candlepower. The former is a measure of physical work, the latter a measure of the amplitude of visible light. The new bulbs produce the same amount of light, with the same underlying technology, they just do it more efficiently in energetic terms (i.e. same energy out from the thermodynamic system, less energy into the thermodynamic system).

    • Churl

      Raskolnik, sweetie, I’m a mechanical engineer who worked 39 years in the electric power business. I’m well up on the subjects of your little lecture, but thank you for your kindness in providing it.

  • Raskolnik

    indy,

    The internet looks green, and occasionally black.

    :-D

    • indy

      Kinda funny cuz I just pitched two old Wyse terminals I had sitting around, still in a their original unopened packaging.

  • Raskolnik

    indy,

    That sounds right up my alley, I’ll give you two Reagan dollars (unadjusted for inflation) for the lot!

    • indy

      Deal. I have a 24 port terminal concentrator too (10baseT but that sounds about right for you) I’ll throw in for free.

  • djenkins

    Churl:

    Go to page 1577 of the public law linked to below and check out the chart:

    http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=110_cong_public_laws&docid=f:publ140.110.pdf

  • LFC

    As the nation’s population increases, upgrades to the power grid will be required. Much of that will end up being done on a national level. That means tax breaks, subsidies, etc involved MY tax dollars. It also means the creation of more power plants which will spew more pollution which will impact ME.

    Sooooo how about we amend the bill to say that you don’t have to abide by it if, and only if, you provide 100% of your own electricity and down use the grids that were created with public money. Oh, wait. That’s WAY too much personal responsibility for the “I wanna’ do whatever I wanna’ do” crowd.

  • Kevin B

    Sooooo how about we amend the bill to say that you don’t have to abide by it if, and only if, you provide 100% of your own electricity and down use the grids that were created with public money. Oh, wait. That’s WAY too much personal responsibility for the “I wanna’ do whatever I wanna’ do” crowd.

    I’d love to provide 100% of the electricity I use (at home). The prices of wind and solar are coming down, but they aren’t economical for me yet. One way to make it happen sooner is to use less energy. I currently use mostly CFL, but I am switching to LED as the CLF bulbs go out. I like the light better, and the LED bulbs are getting cheaper. $50 light bulbs will be a myth and a talking point long after they are a reality. I COULD pay that much, but there were $18 LED bulbs on the shelf right next to them at Home Depot, so why would I? I expect the prices to come down even more by the time I need to buy more.

    When the time comes to replace my HVAC, I plan to go geothermal. I grew up without A/C, but I’m not as hardy as I was then.

    I’m hoping that by the time I retire, I have no electric bill, my light bulbs will last the rest of my life, and I’ll sleep in cool comfort away from the Texas heat.

  • 24AheadDotCom

    There’s no ban, you just aren’t going to be able to buy the bulbs you’re used to starting next year. It’s a very simple thought, once you learn to think a certain way.

    I dislike TPers with a burning hot passion, but I don’t think everyone’s thought this through all the way:

    http://noCFL.com/

  • D Furlano

    My god, what have we turned into?

  • Is the “Light Bulb Ban” a Communist Plot?

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  • Raskolnik

    Panta Rei,

    Thank you for the clarification. It appears my earlier assessment was wrong, based largely on the fact that I had not gone through the law in detail.

    The part of this that always stuck out to me the most was that the manufacturers themselves were supporting the “ban.” Thanks again for providing some context (profitability) as to why.

  • djenkins

    FYI: Yesterday Joe Barton, the sponsor of the rollback bill was forced to admit that the 2007 law does not ban incandescent bulbs. He now claims his bill is justifiied because $1.50 is too much to pay for a light bulb…even if it saves you over $3.00 in energy costs.

    • Panta Rei

      djenkins

      (I actually agree on much of your energy saving issues, but not on light bulbs…)

      >>FYI: Yesterday Joe Barton, the sponsor of the rollback bill was forced to admit that the 2007 >>law does not ban incandescent bulbs. He now claims his bill is justifiied because $1.50 is too >>much to pay for a light bulb…even if it saves you over $3.00 in energy costs.

      FYI: You are wrong on (at least ) 4 counts ;-)

      1. It is a ban for reasons given,
      even if that’s not accepted, the alternative incandescent bulbs are still different

      2. If not accepting that, it is still wrong and unnecessary to have to pay more as initial cost
      given the small national savings of regulations in a national perspective and better ways to save energy
      (see comment below + link re it’s just c.2% of grid electricity savings, from DOE and other official stats)

      3. More specifically RE the running cost savings, that keep getting quoted:
      Only main lighting is used in calculating running cost savings:
      An American average 45-light household has plenty of situations where cheap short-lasting bulbs work out much cheaper to run with occasional use – apart from the cost of losing expensive bulbs, breakages etc

      4. RE saving money overall:
      Consumers as a whole will hardly save moneyregardless of what the
      energy savings are.

      That is not just in having to pay more for the light bulbs as an
      initial cost (or being forced to pay for them, via taxpayer CFL
      programs)
      - but also because electricity companies are being taxpayer subsidised
      or allowed to raise bill rates to compensate for any reduced
      electricity use, as already seen both federally and in California,
      Ohio etc, and before them in the UK and other European countries
      See http://ceolas.net/#californiacfl

      If the bulbs really had to be targeted,
      just tax them and help pay for cheaper CFLs and LEDs
      = choice kept, market equilibrated, big govmt income in strained Budget times (do same with buildings, cars etc) 1.5-2 billion sales of cheap easily taxable bulbs show a massive tax potential
      Essay comparing Free markets and Taxation to Regulation
      http://ceolas.net/#li23x
      .

  • djenkins

    Panta Rei: The backstop language is based on Energy Information Administration (EIA) research and industry input that concludes a 45 lumen per watt level of efficiency will be achieveable by 2020 with incandescent technologies and/or that LED technology (which already exceeds this standard) will become much cheaper and dominate the lighting market.

    If this is the case, then it is the CFL bulb that is most likely to lose out, not the incandescent. Who would buy a CFL if they could buy a cheaper incandescent that is just as efficient or a more efficeint LED that is similarly priced or slightly more expensive?

    Your hand wringing is itself a waste of energy.

    • indy

      Your hand wringing is itself a waste of energy.

      But humorous. I particularly enjoy exclamation points!!!!

      And I agree, I think CFL will be the loser.

  • Panta Rei

    (redone)

  • Panta Rei

    DJenkins

    Thank you for your reply!

    RE my “wasting energy”
    yes I can agree that I might be wasting energy in making these points,
    but that does not mean the points are wrong ;-)

    Besides which it’s not what I say, it’s what the regulations say,
    and what anyone can check for themselves.

    Since you put the reply at the end of the forum
    rather than in a reply to the comment
    I will first clarify some points made earlier also for others.

    Then I may go on to the bigger picture
    ( if I have the time – and energy :-) )
    - I do agree that regulation interpretation
    loses sight of the overall energy saving justification for the regulations

    Otherwise part 1 of the Ceolas.net site discusses
    Electricity generation, distribution and consumption
    to deliver energy efficiency that is actually useful and relevant.

    ———————————-

    So:
    Setting standards that a product can’t meet is the same as banning it
    This is a ban, and it is a ban on incandescents:
    Certainly, it is defined in terms of energy usage standards,
    but they are energy usage standards
    that incandescent bulbs can’t meet, in a longer perspective
    (and if they could, would be unlikely to be made and profitably sold,
    compared to profitable CFL/LEDs)

    One has to have to take the Energy Act as a Whole.

    First Phase starting 2012, yes, allowed
    Second Phase of the Energy Act, by 2020 at the latest,
    all those New Incandescent types are banned, because they do not achieve 45 Lumens per Watt.

    Second Phase,

    ” BACKSTOP REQUIREMENT
    —If the Secretary fails to complete a
    rulemaking in accordance with clauses (i) through (iv)
    or if the final rule [ thus produced]
    does not produce savings that are greater than or equal to the
    savings from a minimum efficacy standard of 45 lumens per watt,
    effective beginning January 1, 2020, the Secretary shall prohibit the
    sale of any general service lamp that does not meet a minimum efficacy
    standard of 45 lumens per watt. ”

    So it will be 45 lumens per watt by 2020 at the latest,
    which no incandescent on the market and no sellable incandescent is
    near to being able to achieve.

    Sure, pigs might fly,
    but given the profit-motive behind pushing CFL/LED sales around the world,
    that is unlikely given the (admitted by GE/Philips/Osram http://ceolas.net/#li1ax) greater CFL/LED profitability
    which led them to seek and support this ban in the first place
    (and, profits apart, why else would someone WELCOME being told what they can make?)

    – besides which those New Incandescents still have light quality etc differences
    and are more complex and expensive for marginal savings,
    which is why they are hardly available in post-ban EU, and then only in smaller ranges.
    If people take up your “offer” to keep buying them that reduces the supposed energy saving even more.
    (based on switch to CFLs, it’s just c.2% of grid electricity savings, DOE and other official stats http://ceolas.net/#li171x, with much more relevant ways to save energy )

    So all politicians waving Halogens around and saying
    “Hey folks, this is not a ban, you can use these”
    are maybe not lying,
    but they are certainly not telling the whole truth either.

    As for
    the Energy Information Administration (EIA) at the Department of Energy:

    “The second tier of efficiency improvements becomes effective in 2020,
    essentially requiring general service bulbs to be as efficient as
    today’s CFLs”

    Certainly, I have also seen that they hope incandescents will meet it,
    but for the reasons given that is doubtful.

    Note also
    what the Act says in section 321:

    “Instructs the Secretary of Energy to report to Congress on the time
    frame for commercialization of lighting to REPLACE INCANDESCENT AND
    HALOGEN INCANDESCENT lamp technology”

    Not “improve” – but “replace” !
    - which shows a certain intent behind the manufacturer assisted and supported regulations,
    as referenced earlier.
    .

    • Panta Rei

      ( If there’s a second similar comment seen here, I did not move or repost the earlier comment ! )

  • Amy Ridenour

    David Jenkins:

    If asked, could you supply a copy of, or a link to, the “Dear Colleague” letter your article claims Rep. Bartlett sent to his colleagues in the House asking them to vote against HR 2417 (the BULB Act)”? If it exists, it must be an interesting letter, given that Rep. Bartlett voted FOR the BULB Act and considers the energy standards the BULB Act was intended to repeal unconstitutional.

    Also, regarding your borrowing of Ronald Reagan’s credibility in support of your view: Reagan did indeed sign energy standards legislation in 1987, after vetoing such legislation in 1986. He signed it in 1987 with the expectati0n that a veto would be overridden. Of the 1986 legislation, he said, “The bill intrudes unduly on the free market, limits the freedom of choice available to consumers who would be denied the opportunity to purchase lower-cost appliances, and constitutes a substantial intrusion into traditional State responsibilities and prerogatives.”

  • rbottoms

    My god, what have we turned into?

    What the hell do you mean we? I’m not a dumbass Republican.

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  • Panta Rei

    Yes it is a ban on incandescents.
    (for anyone who didn’t know)

    ALL known incandescents including the Halogen replacements etc are banned before, at the latest, 2020

    See the 2007 EISA legislation
    http://freedomlightbulb.blogspot.com/2011/07/yes-it-is-ban.html
    More on regulations and official links http://ceolas.net/#li01inx

    Of course the temporarily allowed Halogen-type incandescents are different in light quality etc anyway, and are not popular due to marginal savings for a much higher price.

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  • cartag

    Is any lightbulb made in the U.S.? I don’t think so. They are made, mostly, in China, where there are no environmental regulations. I wonder if that causes any concern among environmentalists.

  • jackrollin

    how can an author MAKE UP facts? Perhaps he doesn’t have the internet… Sylvania’s website has an easy to find “Light Bulb Laws” page http://www.sylvania.com/ConsumerProducts/LightBulbLaws/
    where it clearly states 100 watt bulbs will be phased out by 1/1/2012, 75 watt by 1/1/2013 and the rest by 2014.

    I mostly use CFL’s but I do need 100, 75 and 40 watt bulbs for keeping animals warm. I will now have to switch to 150 watt spotlight and hang the light farther away to keep my chicken peeps and sick / birthing rabbits warm. What a waste.

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