Prospects dim for the 100-watt incandescent light bulb

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Beginning in January 2012, the 100-watt incandescent light bulb will no longer be legally produced in the United States.

The 3-year phase-out of the incandescent light bulb, beginning with the 100-watt bulb, comes as energy standards mandated in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 are implemented. It has infuriated conservatives who see the restriction as an infringement on their right to chose how they light their homes and businesses.

“Congress should not be picking winners and losers, allowing big corporate donors to dictate what consumer products we can and can’t buy!” the conservative Eagle Forum wrote in a recent action alert to supporters. “If we don’t take a stand to save our light bulbs, what will they go after next?”

Advocates for the phase-out explain that not only will new energy standards increase efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions, they have already led to greater innovation.

“Since the standards were passed, we have seen more innovation in the lighting space in the past three years than we have in the last 125, when the first incandescent was invented,” Noah Horowitz, a senior scientist in the National Resource Defense Council’s energy program pointed out. “Due to the standards, consumers will now have access to incandescent bulbs that use at least 28 percent less power than the older bulbs, as well as many other energy savings choices including compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light emitting diodes (LEDs) that save even more and last a lot longer too.”

The new incandescents, however, are more expensive than the traditional Edison bulb and while there are alternatives, people already are stocking up on 100-watt incandescents.

Howard Segermark, president of a government relations consulting company on Capitol Hill, explained to The Daily Caller that he has started to stock-pile incandescent 100-watt light bulbs due to the coming limits and incandescents’ current cost.

“I was in Home Depot and they’ve got a great sale on them,” he told TheDC. “I bought another dozen.”

Segermark added that he does not like the government telling him what kind of light bulb he should be using.

“The arrogance of a government that tells you what size light bulbs to use is like Nixon imposing wage and price controls while devaluing the dollar; like FDR claiming to eliminate ‘want;’ like King Canute demanding the tide to stop,” he wrote in an email. “They all try to ignore the way the world works.”

In July House Republicans attempted to repeal provisions of the 2007 law dealing with the efficiency mandates with the “Better Use of Light Bulb (BULB) Act,” sponsored by Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton. While the legislation received a majority of votes cast — 233 to 193 — the legislation needed two-thirds of the vote for passage because it was considered under a suspension of House rules.

“It’s a victory in the sense that we got a majority vote, but we didn’t get over the procedural hurdle set up today,” Barton said following the defeat. “But this vote clearly shows which party is for bigger federal government involvement in people’s daily lives and which is for consumer choice. Why in the world should the federal government tell people what kind of lights they can buy for their homes?”

Wyoming Republican Sen. Michael Enzi introduced a version of the The Better Use of Light Bulbs (BULB) Act, in the Senate. The bill is still waiting for a vote in the Energy Committee.

Shortly after the BULB Act’s defeat, Texas Republican Rep. Michael Burgess added an amendment to the Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill that would have prevented the Department of Energy from enforcing the the new standards.

According to spokesman Daniel Head, Enzi has also filed an amendment to the Energy and Water Appropriations bill to delay implementation of the incandescent phase-out.

Head noted, however, that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Tuesday that the Energy and Water bill would likely not be considered by the Senate.

Myron Ebell, director of energy and global warming policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told The Daily Caller that there remain avenues for Republicans to stop the phase-out, including attaching language to the payroll tax cut bill or an omnibus bill.

“There are at least two vehicles here at the end of the year we could use to get this done,” Ebell said.

While there have been efforts this year, The Washington Times harshly criticized House Republicans in a recent editorial, writing that they haven’t “done enough to stop this.”

When queried about what leadership has been doing to preempt the coming phase-out, House Speaker John Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel told TheDC that he had “not heard any discussion of this issue at all” and directed TheDC to the Energy and Commerce Committee — whose spokesman Alexa Marrero pointed to the amendment in the Energy and Water appropriations bill.

According to spokesman Sean Brown, Barton plans to work on passing legislation that would permanently overturn the ban during the second session of Congress.


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Caroline May