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Unplugged: Who Asked GOP To Take On Light Bulb Fight?

Usually when our elected leaders fight federal rules, they are going to the mat for their corporate benefactors. Yet we scratch our heads in wonder over who exactly has pushed them to take on this light bulb fight. Last week, the House GOP majority included in their must-pass funding legislation a rider to block funding for DOE’s enforcement of certain light bulb efficiency rules.

What is so strange about this latest action is not that the GOP is relying on a hollow argument about protecting “freedom of choice” for light bulbs (my colleague Liz Judge did a fantastic job debunking the assertion that the standards will force incandescent light bulbs off the market) but that industry is not behind the GOP’s attempt to block these regulations.

As detailed in this Politico story, companies including General Electric, Philips and Osram Sylvania have spent millions of dollars readying US plants to make new incandescent bulbs that meet the standards and are none too pleased that our leaders are attempting to unravel this effort.

Although the rider has no effect on the standards, which go into effect on Jan. 1, by blocking DOE from enforcing the standards, the GOP rider makes it possible for foreign companies to avoid punishment for illegally undercutting domestic manufacturers.

These energy efficiency standards for light bulbs are part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 which was approved by President George W. Bush and will save Americans billions in utility bills each year.

Yet our conservative leaders and pundits have waxed poetic on the supposed merits of inefficient incandescent light bulbs, claiming the American people should have “freedom of choice” and that this really is about being pro-choice when it comes to light bulbs.

What they fail to mention is that incandescent light bulbs available today from the major manufacturers will meet the new standards. These bulbs look and work like the bulbs we have been using for decades, but are 28–33 percent more efficient. Energy efficient lighting products covered by the standard would save between 13 and 16 billion dollars every year at today’s average electricity cost. That is the equivalent of a tax cut of over $50 for every American each year.

Given these savings and the many lighting options that will remain available, it’s not surprising that a USA Today/Gallup poll earlier this year found that 61 percent of Americans think the 2007 standards are a good idea.

Yes, it makes absolutely no sense that some of our elected leaders are essentially fighting to steal money from our pockets, while claiming to protect a “freedom” that is not under any threat.

“The only people we are aware of who have opposed the bulb standards are some politicians and some conservative commentators,” Bill Wicker, spokesman for Senate ENR Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) said.

Yes, it really doesn’t make sense.