Business, Economics and Jobs

Light bulb laws could drop energy standards

The old-fashioned light bulb could get special treatment and dodge energy efficiency standards if new U.S. laws are passed this week.

Lawmakers are due to vote this week on repealing federal light bulb minimum efficiency standards, effectively rolling back a 2007 law.

It is unclear whether proponents have the two-thirds majority needed for passage under the expedited procedure, CQ Online reports.

Thomas Edison invented the incandescent bulb in 1879 and it was hailed as a symbol of American ingenuity.

But despite it revolutionising the availability of cheap lighting, the bulb is now being criticised as wasteful and environmentally unfriendly with about 90 per cent of the energy used to produce light lost as heat.

The 2007 law under President George W. Bush was unopposed.

It established efficiency standards for the bulbs — something the federal government has done for decades with a host of appliances.

But after the Republican sweep of the House in last November’s elections, conservative groups began targeting the light bulb rules as government meddling that would force U.S. jobs overseas, where many bulbs that use alternative technologies, including compact fluorescents and light-emitting diodes, are produced, CQ reports.

It reports:

“The de facto ban on incandescent bulbs was the perfect example of the overreaching government intrusion that has so many people fed up with Washington,” said Rep. Joe L. Barton, R-Texas.
The controversy was fueled in large part by GOP infighting; Barton co-sponsored a similar bill last year, which conservative groups seized upon after the November elections, to highlight the moderate record of Michigan Republican Fred Upton, whom Barton was challenging to chair the Energy and Commerce Committee. The bill was seen as a not-so-subtle dig at Upton, who teamed up with California Democrat Jane Harman to write the light-bulb language in the 2007 energy law. Upton ultimately prevailed in that contest, during which he pledged to revisit the light-bulb law.
Barton, who was named the committee’s chairman emeritus as a consolation prize, released a statement last week thanking Upton for bringing the bill to the floor, which suggests that the chairman made good on his pledge. But that also left backers of the law scrambling to deprive the measure of the two-thirds majority it would need to pass under suspension of the rules. The continued support for the light bulb standards by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., makes passage in that chamber unlikely.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said it was a “myth” that the standards constitute a ban on incandescent bulbs. The only difference between the older bulbs and the more efficient models “is they will help American consumers save money,” Chu said.