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.