Republicans Seek Repeal of Incandescent Bulb Ban

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Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) has announced that he plans to introduce legislation to reverse the ban on incandescent light bulbs which is scheduled to go into effect January 1, 2014. The ban was included in a comprehensive energy bill that President George W. Bush signed into law in 2007 as an amendment, and was intended as a means of saving energy and limiting pollution.

Senator Enzi’s repeal legislation, the Better Use of Light Bulbs Act (BULB), S. 395, has 27 co-sponsors, including Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), the latter of whose office issued the following statement on the legislation:

The ban was intended to save on electricity costs and limit pollution by replacing traditional incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient compact florescent light bulbs (CFLs).

However, CFLs are more expensive, many contain mercury which can be harmful even in the smallest amounts, and most are manufactured overseas in places like China. In September 2010, the last major GE manufacturing plant for incandescent light bulbs in the U.S. closed in Winchester, Virginia and 200 jobs were lost.

“I think it’s fine if someone wants to fill their home or business with the light from the new bulbs. I also think it is fine if someone wants to buy an old-fashioned bulb because it works better for them. If left alone, the best bulb will win its rightful standing in the marketplace. Government doesn’t need to be in the business of telling people what light bulb they have to use,” said Senator Enzi, who authored the BULB Act.

“Washington needs to stop picking winners and losers in the marketplace and micromanaging how Americans live their lives,” said Senator DeMint, the lead co-sponsor of the bill. “Americans are fully capable of choosing the best way to light their own homes and what best fits the needs and budget of their families. When Congress dictates which light bulbs folks in South Carolina must buy, it’s clear the ‘nanny state’ mentality has gotten out of control in Washington.”

A similar bill, H.R. 91, was also introduced in the House by Representative Joe Barton (R-Texas), along with Reps. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and 12 other Republicans. In a February 1 editorial in USA Today Barton observed of the incandescent light bulb ban:

Voters sent a message in November that it is time for politicians and activists in Washington to stop interfering in Americans’ lives and manipulating the free market. The light bulb ban is a glaring example of that frustration.

When I introduced the BULB Act, it wasn’t designed as an attack on energy conservation. It was to defend personal freedom.

People don’t want Congress dictating the lighting they can use. Traditional incandescent bulbs have been brightening the night since Thomas Edison created the first one in 1879. They are safe, cheap and reliable.

This de facto ban has nothing to with public safety because unlike lead paint, leaded gasoline and asbestos, the old-fashioned light bulbs in your home pose no danger.

It is a different story for the most prominent alternative, compact fluorescent lights, or CFLs. They are more expensive, contain hazardous mercury, and recently The Wall Street Journal reported that their promised longevity is exaggerated by almost 33%. Tests by an electric company in California show the CFLs have higher burnout rates in areas where lights are turned on and off frequently, such as bathrooms. Then there are consumer complaints that they emit a light that is annoying and in severe cases even gives them headaches.

So why force them on the American people?

The bill passed in 2007, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, was sponsored by 199 members of Congress, including former Moderate Republican Reps. Chris Shays (Conn.), Wayne Gilchrest (Md.), and Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (Md.). In addition to the provision seeking to phase out incandescent light bulbs, the bill also imposed a wide array of environmentalist and fiscally reckless programs, including:

  • Taxpayer funds being used for increased production of ethanol and other biofuels (an endeavor which has proven to be a massive waste of taxpayer funds)

  • Requiring federal buildings to adhere to “energy-efficient” standards, such as carbon neutralization and the exclusive use of Energy Star appliances
  • Taxpayer funding for research and development of solar, geothermal, wind, and marine energy sources, such as windmills and solar panels
  • Increased regulations targeted at the automobile industry, mandating raising auto fuel efficiency standards 40 percent
  • Taxpayer funding for federal “green jobs” training programs, and the expansion of the federal bureaucracy through the creation of the unconstitutional Office of Climate Change and the Environment within the Department of Transportation (currently led by another moderate Republican, former Rep. Ray LaHood of Illinois)

Under the provisions of the legislation, the phase-out of incandescent light is to begin with the 100-watt bulb in 2012 and end in 2014 with the 40-watt. All light bulbs must use 25 percent to 30 percent less 2014. By 2020, bulbs must be 70 percent more efficient than they are today.

The legislation is an archetypical embodiment of how the environmentalist lobby seeks to impose its will through boosting government regulation and spending, limiting individual consumer choice, increasing the size of government, and centralizing power.

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