Texan Leads House Vote To Ban Rules On New Light Bulbs

WASHINGTON (AP) – Having to buy a squiggly fluorescent light bulb is an affront to personal freedom, some lawmakers are saying as the House decides whether to overturn a law setting new energy-efficiency standards for the bulbs.

House Republicans are pushing legislation that would overturn measures in a 2007 energy act requiring efficiency upgrades in the old-fashioned incandescent light bulb, little changed since it was invented by Thomas Edison in 1879.

Republicans say the new standards, signed into law by President George W. Bush, are a symbol of an overreaching federal government and people should have the right to buy the traditional, cheap and reliable incandescent bulbs. The Obama administration and environmentalists say new bulbs on the market will save American households billions of dollars in energy costs.

The legislation, promoted by Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, is being considered under a procedure requiring a two-thirds majority to pass. With Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee urging their colleagues to oppose it, that won’t be easy to achieve, and the bill faces dim prospects in the Democratic-controlled Senate. A House vote could come Tuesday.

For some Republicans, the new standards are a glaring example of big brother government. The legislation, Barton said, “is about more than just energy consumption. It is about personal freedom.”

The light bulb became an issue after the Republican takeover of the House, when Barton was vying with Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., for the energy panel chairmanship. Upton, who worked with Democrats in crafting the light bulb provisions in the 2007 energy act, eventually got the job, but Barton got his bill on the legislative calendar.

Upton now supports Barton. “The public response on this issue is a clear signal that markets, not governments, should be driving technological advancements,” he said.

Conservative talk-show hosts have also jumped on the issue. “Let there be incandescent light and freedom — that’s the American way,” said Rush Limbaugh.

Republican presidential contender Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, in her freelance response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address earlier this year, said that under Obama “we bought a bureaucracy that now tells us which light bulbs to buy.”

Supporters of the Barton bill also speak of the higher up-front costs of the energy-efficient bulbs and a health risk from mercury in compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs.

Barton said consumers should have the option of paying 30 or 40 cents for an old-fashioned incandescent bulb rather than $6 for a CFL or more for an LED (light-emitting diode). “If you are Al Gore and want to spend $10 for a light bulb, more power to you,” he said. But “let people make their own choices.”

Democrats waved new energy-efficient incandescent bulbs made in the United States and costing in the $1.50 range. “Yes, this costs a few dimes more. But let me tell you, you start saving dimes the moment you screw these into the socket,” said Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J.

Those backing the new standards say the mercury risk is negligible and say new incandescent and LED bulbs contain no mercury.

The Obama administration, in a statement released Monday, said it opposes the bill because it would repeal standards that are driving U.S. innovation, creating new manufacturing jobs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The White House said the bulbs will save American households nearly $6 billion in 2015 alone.

The Energy Department pointed out that energy-saving improvements in refrigerators carried out since the 1970s now save Americans $20 billion a year, or $150 a family.

“Now is not the time to roll back commonsense standards, achieved with bipartisan support, that will save families $6 billion in energy costs,” said department spokesman Damien LaVera.

The National Resources Defense Council said that, when the law is fully implemented in 2020, energy costs would be reduced by 7 percent or about $85 a household every year. It said the more efficient bulbs would eliminate the need for 33 large power plants.

Supporters stress that the new rules do not ban incandescent or any specific bulb types, and that stores already offer a choice of energy-saving incandescents, LEDs and the curly CFLs that some find aesthetically displeasing. Instead, new bulbs will have to be 25 to 30 percent more efficient than current incandescent models, which convert only 10 percent of the energy consumed to electricity and give off the rest as heat.

As of Jan. 1, 2012, inefficient 100-watt bulbs will no longer be available at most stores. That will apply to 75-watt bulbs in 2013 and traditional 40- and 60-watt bulbs in 2014.

USA Today and Gallup in February and found that 61 percent judged the law to be good, and 31 percent bad. More than seven in 10 said they’ve switched to more energy-efficient light bulbs, and 84 percent said they were satisfied with their non-incandescent light bulbs.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


One Comment

  1. RussP says:

    So our law makers have no problem putting restrictions on our constitutional rights but are worried about making us buy energy efficient light bulbs. “None of the above” really needs to be an option during the next election since we’re not offered any candidates worth having in office any longer. Empty seats in Austin would probably do less harm to the state.

  2. Look at the Bigger Picture says:

    I hate to be a conspiracy theorist. But under this same logic, the government could force us to trade in all traditional gas burning cars for hybrids or electric vehicles to lower our dependance on foreign oil. Also could force us to eat only healthy food to cut down on health care cost. They’re just light bulbs??? right??? …but look at the bigger picture, little freedoms to choose, whittled away one by one don’t sound bad, till you realize what’s happening…and then it’s too late.

  3. Betty Stevens says:

    Obviously, many serving in Congress have been there too long. We need to enforce term limits.

  4. Rick McDaniel says:

    This is one I agree with. There are a number of reasons, some of which will impact on the consumer’s pocketbook, in hidden ways, that cause me to agree with rejecting limits on what you can purchase, and what you cannot.

    Do not take what the government says, as gospel, until you do your homework, on the pros and cons (yes there are several cons), about the light bulb issue.

    1. les says:

      i am an electrician and these bulbs do not work well with interior motion sensors !!! even when the motion sensor is not activated they continue to glow very dim. where is the savings now !!!!

  5. Trey says:

    Having to buy a squiggly fluorescent light bulb is an affront to personal freedom?
    The Patriot Act is an affront to personal freedom not a dang light bulb.Joe Barton needs to retire or be fired for knowingly bringing a bill up he knows will not pass the in the US Senate.The prices quoted are way wrong too.I just bought regular 25 watt bulbs and they cost $2.50 for 2.I also bought a energy efficient bulbs and it was less than $4 for 2.

    1. RussP says:

      Politicians never let facts stand in the way of making their point.

  6. C Bauer says:

    I outfitted my house entirely with all those new hippie bulbs, and they burned out faster than anything else. Let us also not forget the hazardous amounts of mercury in them. How many people do you think properly dispose of said mercury-containing bulbs when they’re done? 2%? I’ll take the incandescent bulbs any day, and twice on Tuesday. I’d rather pay more for power usage than let an obscene amount of mercury seep into our drinking water. Government scam, people. Government scam. If you still think this is the solution to our energy crisis, you need to go ahead and put on your ill-fitting Mao uniform.

  7. Elmer says:

    Democrats do not realize that many 100 watt incandescents are used to heat brooders and to keep well pump houses from freezing. The more inefficient the better. City folk are so narrow minded.

    1. Nonya says:

      Most city folk don’t care. It’s the tree hugging hippie folks and the lobbyists and folks in Washington making these asinine regulations.

      1. Wisconsin Transplant says:

        The new bulbs don’t work well in stoplights, either. The old bulbs were hot enough to melt snow and ice, but the new ones are not. More ice and snow on lights = more accidents.

  8. darrell says:

    joe barton needs to go. im a republican and im saying that.
    he is totally out of touch with reality and the people. remember when he appologized to the oil companies? he has gotten so deep into buisness pockets everything he does is at their beck and call. he even has keys to their executive washrooms. thats so he can go in and wipe their rears when they take a d—. if he isnt corrupt, he is so borderline its scary.

  9. CanadianTexan says:

    To me it’s not just about exspensive squiggly lightbulbs, it’s also about being dependant on China for 100% of our lightbulbs.

    1. C Bauer says:

      All my incandescent bulbs were made in Mexico.

  10. callen says:

    If the house vote were sponsored by ANYONE in congress but Joe Barton, I would pay attention to it. However, Joe Barton is a motivated by special interests. Remember his apology to BP for their oil spill last year? No doubt, he receives thousands and thousands of contributions a year for his votes that favor Big Business and Big Government. He is in the pocket of special interests. Count on it. He simply does not have the brains to look forward to reducing energy consumption. A very narrow mind he has. So sad. So sad.

  11. YRofTexas says:

    I don’t care WHO or WHAT PARTY is working to shut down the enforcement of using these poison-lased bulbs in our homes. I don’t want these bulbs in my home! If a bulb gets broken, the mercury forces you to open up your house and call a haz-mat team. My hubby is wheelchair bound. How quickly do you think I can evacuate him before he breaths in the toxins?
    Sometimes, our govt just can’t seem to stop from dictating everything we citizens think, say and do. I’m tired of it!

  12. PM says:

    Barton is such an idiot… I would be shocked if he got one fact right when he opens his mouth….. he makes Texans look like a bunch of old bubba’s….

  13. FedUpTxn says:

    When I replaced all my household bulbs with the “energy efficient” swirled type, my electricity bill went UP, not down! I have an autistic child and also do NOT want poisionous Mercury in my home! Ordering consumers to only buy ONE type bulb only benefit those particular manufacturers! FREEDOM of CHOICE is the American way!

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