Energy efficient lights: To be or not to be, that is the question

Posted by Susan Altman

You would have thought that last week’s defeat of the Barton Bill on a voice vote would have settled the light bulb question for a while, but this is the U.S. political system, after all.

Facts, rumors, and distortions have been flying for months, and heating up even more in the past few weeks, about the on and off switches of the US Legislature regarding rules for energy efficiency of light bulbs.

It’s a light issue next to the question of whether the United States will have a functioning government after August 2nd. Yet in its own way I think of it as a small but fully featured model of the mutually repellant forces that are tearing apart the American legislative system and making effective policy on climate change  impossible to achieve in this legislative session.

Here’s a quick summary of the situation: In 2007 the Legislature approved, and President Bush signed, a law to increase the energy efficiency of light bulbs, which is to be fully implemented by 2014. Now several Republicans of a contrarian stripe have determined to block the law by passing new legislation to negate it or make its implementation impossible. Texas Rep Joe Barton’s BULB Act was defeated on a voice vote on July 12, failing to win a two-thirds majority of the House.  Most recently, Rep. Michael Burgess’s (R-TX) amendment to block enforcement of more-energy-efficient light bulb standards  passed the House of Representatives by a voice vote on July 15.

Here is the introduction to an editorial from the July 18th LA Times that puts the issue into good perspective. I encourage you to click on the link to read the entire piece. Below that are a number of links to other points of view and additional information.

Light-bulb standards equal energy efficiency: Resistance to light-bulb efficiency standards is foolish and contrary to the nation’s goal of energy independence.

Refrigerators and cars have become more energy-efficient. Water heaters and windows have too. So it’s strange that so many politicians cling to old-style incandescent light bulbs.

Contrary to what congressional critics have been saying, a law passed during the George W. Bush administration does not ban incandescent bulbs. Rather, it phases in higher requirements for energy efficiency that the old incandescents — in use for more than 100 years since they were developed by Thomas Edison — do not meet because much of their energy creates heat rather than light. Starting in 2012, the traditional 100-watt bulbs go off the market, followed over the next two years by lower-wattage bulbs. California is moving ahead even more quickly, phasing out the 100-watt bulb this year.

Once the phase-out is fully in place, the law will save consumers about $12 billion a year in energy costs; the average California household will save $124 a year. And more than utility bills are at stake. Conservation is one of the fastest and most effective paths to energy independence. The bulb law will save the country more energy than it takes to power a third of the state of California. And even though compact fluorescent bulbs contain a small amount of mercury, making them harder to dispose of, the law will reduce mercury pollution overall by eliminating the need for 30 coal-fired power plants.

Other links:

MA Rep. Markey’s speech before the House about corporations’ opposition to light bulb efficiency.

Ed Schultz’s comments.

The Light Bulb Wars: Lots of Heat, Very Little Light Coming from Conservative Talk Radio

D.R. Tucker commented on the MCAN Discussion Forum, “In the Boston area, Boston Herald columnist and WRKO-AM talk-radio host Howie Carr happens to be a high priest of climate-change denial. Last Wednesday, he did a segment on the light-bulb issue that was so blatant in its false claims that I actually lost count of how many times he and his callers made factual mistakes about the issue at hand. If you can bear a 32-minute assault upon your ears, I encourage you to listen.”

A recent Rasmussen phone survey found that 67% oppose a “ban” on traditional lightbulbs, but as with all surveys, how you pose the questions influences the responses, and in this survey the wording is often biased and leads people to specific responses.

David Doniger, NRDC: How Many Congressmen Does It Take To Screw Up a Light Bulb?

The blog of Jim Presswood, a conservative Republican whose faith informs his work as Federal Energy Policy Director for NRDC. Yes, you read that correctly.

The pieces of actual and proposed legislation at issue can be found through Internet searches that are described below.

Better Use of Light Bulbs (BULB) Act (H.R. 2354), introduced by Rep Joe Barton (R-TX):

  1. Go to:
  2. In the Word Search bar, type “2354”.
  3. Click the orange SEARCH button. You should only get one result.

Burgess Amendment H.AMDT.678 to H.R.2354

prohibits the use of funds to be used to implement or enforce section 430.32(x) of title 10, Code of Federal Regulations or to implement or enforce the standards established by the tables contained in section 325(i)(1)(B) of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act with respect to BPAR incandescent reflector lamps, BR incandescent reflector lamps, and ER incandescent reflector lamps.

To find this legislation, do this:

  1. Go to:
  2. Below the Word Search bar, choose from House members “Burgess, Michael”.
  3. Scroll down and click “Amendments” under Type of Legislation.
  4. Scroll down and type 07/01/2011 into the first Date search box and 07/15/2011 into the second box.
  5. Click the orange SEARCH button. You should only get one result.
This entry was posted in Climate Change Denial, Energy, Energy Efficiency and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Energy efficient lights: To be or not to be, that is the question

  1. Pingback: Barton’s Bonehead Bulb Bill Back. Zombie Legislation rises again. « Climate Denial Crock of the Week

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