Turning Off The Light on the Environment

On June 12, U.S. House Republicans failed to revoke the lighting efficiency restrictions mandated by the 2007 law, The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, or HR 6. This law would phase out incandescent bulbs, and is one that Republicans themselves sponsored.


Republicans did, however, pass legislation that removes the funding needed to enforce the 2007 law. This backpedaling, now taking place in the 2012 Energy and Water Appropriations Act (which passed the House on July 15), underlines the fact that the Republican path to emasculation is through the pocket, and without benefit of anesthetic.


But is it really a victory? In the Land of the (not-so-much) Free, and the Home of the Brave (if you have money, anyway), it may be. And there is little doubt that some of the much-maligned Republicans are actually trying to do a good thing for a change; making light bulb legislation a symbol of all that is wrong with modern government – overreaching, insensitive, and essentially impractical.


steven chu Steven Chu, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, disagrees. As he has been quick to remind, the 2007 act does not actually ban incandescent bulbs. That is, halogen incandescent bulbs will still be available, albeit at possibly unaffordable prices (who says Republicans are the only ones failing to grasp America’s current financial reality?).  


Still, I’m inclined to think that Dr. Chu (a physicist and Nobel Prize winner with a pedigree from both Berkeley and Stanford) does know what’s best for me. And you. And the 311,777,805 other Americans alive on July 16, all of whom want to keep living and breathing in spite of the nation’s overwhelming carbon footprint of 6.633 million metric tons in 2009, which was a good year.  


As American Thinker (unintentionally) points out, transitions – whether from whale oil to kerosene or coal to solar – require someone at the helm who is willing to look (somewhat) like a hard ass. Dr. Chu, a well-educated man who takes the long view of life on this planet, would be my first choice for that ass – pardon me, Dr. Chu, but the term is actually a compliment.


The Republican argument – that phaseout of the incandescent means a house full of mercury-laden compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) whose accidental demise requires a cleanup crew from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – is not only shirty, it’s whinging (thanks, Brits). Especially since most of us never do anything that’s good for ourselves, or the planet, unless and until forced to by ill health or imminent death.

oklahoma drought

I don’t know about you, but the planet is pretty sick right now. Record temps all across the Southern U.S., another Dust Bowl brewing in the Oklahoma-Four Corners area, and a pattern of record rainfall and storms from the Grain Belt to the eastern ridge of the Rockies that are too early to damage the corn and wheat crops. Maybe. 



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If you see any unhelpful comments, please let us know immediately.

It is important to recognize that this proposed law is a "technology-neutral law. It doesn't mandate CFLs over incandescents; it requires that certain lights be roughly 25% more efficient, with about the same brightness and light". This is a performance standard - not a ban. CFLs, for example, use 75% less energy and last up to 10 times longer than a standard incandescent. Many inandescents can not meet these energy saving guidelines. Consumers will however still have the choice to buy energy-saving incandescent lights which use halogen technology.It is important to note that if every home in America replaced just one incandescent light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified CFL, we would save enough energy every year to light 3 million homes and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from about 800,000 cars. That is a minimum standard that needs to be upheld for the future of our environment. According to Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu, "Considering the fact that about 11-12% of energy use in the average household is attributable to lighting, the standard will have a dramatic impact on energy use in the US. Overall, consumers will save about $6 billion a year from the EISA standard". In these times, that is a dramatic savings of both money and energy consumption that cannot be ignored.

Written in July 2011

Jeanne Roberts (anonymous)

Thanks, Iconic Bulb. I suspect you're an industry or government rep. Comments are still welcome, of course, and if you noticed the article is generally favorable to newer-type efficient light bulbs, and even to CFLs. The sole objection to the latter is, of course, the mercury, and we suspect the CFL will shortly be replaced by equally affordable, less toxic, LEDs.

Written in July 2011

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  • Posted on July 18, 2011. Listed in:

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