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Unplugged: A Push to Waste Energy

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View Tim Ballo's blog posts
08 July 2011, 11:17 AM
House to vote on repeal of light bulb standards

On Monday, the House of Representatives will consider legislation authored by Rep. Joe Barton to repeal federal energy efficiency standards for light bulbs, set to take effect next year. The standards have the support of environmental groups, consumer advocates, and lighting manufacturers and will save energy, reduce household electric bills and spur investment in advanced lighting technologies. 

But facts are an outdated metric for assessing legislative policy choices. Instead, the push to repeal light bulb efficiency standards comes wrapped in beliefs and feelings. 

Eulogies for “Edison’s gift” have lamented the loss of inefficient bulbs, while ignoring that many incandescent light bulbs are not going away. Incandescent bulbs that use halogen gas (like automobile headlights have for decades) meet the new standards, and there are more than a dozen exceptions for incandescent bulbs designed for specialty applications, like three-way switches and shatter-proof bulbs.

While fears over mercury exposure from broken compact fluorescent lamps are more understandable, CFLs are just one of many choices people will have once the standards take effect. By reducing demand for electricity from coal-fired power plants CFLs avoid more mercury pollution than they create.

Opposition to the standards, as expressed by Rep. Barton, is based on the ideological proposition that “we don't think the federal government should tell people what kind of lighting to use in their homes.”

But casting the issue as an interior decorating choice ignores that light bulbs of any kind aren’t much use without electricity, and that electricity carries real consequences with each flick of the switch. Melting glaciers, deadly air pollution, and destruction of mountains for coal are problems for the whole nation. Getting rid of a product that wastes 90 percent of the energy it consumes, and wears out more quickly, seems like the least the federal government could do.

"STEAL THIS BULB!" I must in classic Yippie fashion politely note the loophole futility of Edison bulb prohibition for your due consideration. There are already available a luxurious excluded-from-the-ban version of real bulbs which cost only about double of already dirt cheap standard ones, namely "100W rough service" bulbs that have beefier filaments and are thus *less* efficient than standard bulbs. Ooh la la, back to business, rough service Bachelor! This loophole will be outed soon if the ban bans, and being a prohibition will cause blissful rebellion, making Edison subversively cool, resulting in more energy use akin to how people love big beefy SUVs as status symbols in rebellion against green nanny statism. From the bill which kicks in at the end of this year:

(ii) EXCLUSIONS.—The term ‘general service incandescent lamp’ does not include the following incandescent lamps:
(XII) A rough service lamp.

Search for: 100W rough service.

-=Anonymous=- Ph.D. in Carbon Chemistry (Columbia/Harvard)

P.S. No bulbs for you, dear citizen, but you be always allowed to drool over tobacco farmer Gore's six-fireplace palace:
And his jet ski equipped orgy yacht:

P.S.S. Did you know that real sea level records back 150 years show no trend change in our high CO2 era?

While I don't share NikFromNYC's fascination with all things Al Gore, to respond to a legitimate point: It's true that the light bulb standards do not apply to rough service light bulbs. However, the 2007 legislation was designed to address the "blissful rebellion" you describe. Under section 321(a)(3)(B) of the Energy Independence and Security Act, if sales of rough service light bulbs increase significantly beyond modeled projections, either the Department of Energy must establish efficiency standards for rough service lamps, or they will be limited to a maximum of 40 watts.

And for what it's worth, the comparison to SUVs seems particularly inapposite. Any "rebellious" demand for outsized motor vehicles is fueled by a sophisticated marketing campaign. But the major lighting manufacturers are focused on LEDs and have little incentive to push up the sales of lower-margin rough service lamps.

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