Congress puts brakes on incandescent light bulb phase-out

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Republican opponents of new light bulb efficiency standards which would have started a phase-out of incandescent light bulbs in January have inserted language into this year’s final 1,200-page spending bill to block the plan.

The $1 trillion omnibus spending legislation, agreed upon Thursday night by House and Senate negotiators in order to prevent a government shutdown, will block funding from going toward the new standards’ implementation.

“Because annual spending bills are ‘must pass’ legislation, attaching light bulb protections to the appropriations package was the most effective way to get a correction signed into law,” Energy and Commerce committee spokeswoman Charlotte Baker told The Daily Caller.

While the new standards will remain on the books, there will be no funding allocated to enforcing those standards. The delay on the implementation will last until the end of the government’s fiscal year in September 2012.

“We heard the message loud and clear from Americans who don’t want government standards determining how they light their homes,” Energy and Commerce committee chairman Fred Upton said in a statement. “That’s why the House acted several months ago to cut off funding for the Department of Energy to enforce light bulb efficiency standards that would deny consumer access to traditional, 100 watt incandescent light bulbs.”

The Hill reported this week that the efficiency standard delay was one of the Republicans’ and Democrats’ stumbling blocks in a final deal on the omnibus spending bill.

While Republicans pushing to stop the implementation have characterized the new standards as a “ban” on incandescents that would usurp consumer’s power to chose, proponents argue that the standards are meant to improve energy efficiency to improve the environment and reduce energy costs in the long run.

“Who should be driving the market? It gets to the question. Was it Nancy Pelosi? Was it the House of Representatives? Was the While House? Really, consumers should be driving the market,” Texas Republican Rep. Michael Burgess told TheDC last week. “Consumers ought to be driving the marketplace, not the government. That is the bottom line here.”

Burgess sponsored the original House amendment to block federal funding for the light bulb phase-out.

Concerns about the coming demise of the incandescent bulb had led some Americans to begin stocking up on 100-watt bulbs, the manufacture of which would have been outlawed in America without Burgess’s legislation.

“New lighting options are great news for the public, but the lesson is that markets and consumer demand are the best drivers of innovation and new choices,” Upton added.

Congress is expected to vote on the omnibus legislation Friday afternoon.

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Caroline May