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Kit Kennedy’s Blog

The House's Surprise Attack on Energy Efficiency - Why is Rep. Upton Trying to Screw Up His Own Light Bulb Efficiency Standards?

Kit Kennedy

Posted July 7, 2011

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As the trade press has reported, the House is planning to hold a vote on Monday evening July 11th on the BULB Act (H.R. 91, H.R. 2417) or a similar bill to repeal lighting efficiency standards that are strongly supported by consumer groups, manufacturers and efficiency advocates. These standards will save consumers about $100 per household annually, or about $12 billion nationally, when fully implemented and will also avoid the need to build 30 large power plants. And these standards are helping to create thousands of new American jobs. Incredibly, the newest version of the BULB Act (H.R. 2417) would not only repeal the national lighting efficiency standards, but also deprive the states like California of their right to set state lighting efficiency standards.

The House majority leadership plans this sneak attack on energy efficiency without ever having held a hearing on this issue or even having held a committee mark-up. They haven’t even produced the exact bill yet or formally announced the vote. Clearly, they’re trying to dodge regular process and avoid scrutiny of this last minute attack on energy efficiency.

And, in a major flip-flop, Rep. Fred Upton (R. Michigan), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee – who wrote and championed the light bulb efficiency standards is now seeking to repeal his own legislation. The standards, by the way, were signed into law by President George W. Bush with strong bipartisan support.

Supporters of the repeal falsely claim that lighting efficiency standards will ban incandescent light bulbs. But as Rep. Upton knows well, this is claim is simply untrue. Indeed, it’s a whopper. Advanced incandescent bulbs that meet the new efficiency standards – but look and provide light just the same as old-fashioned light bulbs -- are on the market already, and, unlike the old-fashioned bulbs, many of them are made right here in the United States. These new bulbs work just like the 125-year-old Edison bulb—they just do it with about 30 percent less energy.

energyad.gifAs consumer groups, manufacturers and efficiency advocates say in our new ad, incandescent light bulbs aren’t being banned – they’re just getting better.

Want proof? Just go to Home Depot, Lowe’s or your local hardware store and look for the following brands of efficient halogen incandescent light bulbs made by Philips, GE or Osram Sylvania:

photo: efficient halogen incandescent light bulbs made by Philips, GE and Osram Sylvania

So the BULB Act and other efforts to repeal lighting efficiency standards are based, quite simply, on a lie – the false claim that incandescent bulbs will be banned. If the lighting efficiency standards are allowed to go forward, American consumers will continue to be able to buy and use efficient incandescent bulbs like the brands above, and will also be able to choose CFL and LED bulbs if they so choose.

Why does this falsehood matter? As noted above, repealing the lighting efficiency standards will increase energy bills for American households. A repeal would also result in increased energy demand and the need to build more power plants, complete with added air and water pollution. What’s more, the repeal could cost Americans jobs. That’s because the new lighting efficiency standards that House leadership is seeking to repeal have already sparked investment in American jobs. The new standards are already prompting manufacturers to build new U.S. plants and create new U.S. jobs making more energy efficient lighting technologies. Cree, a LED lighting company based in North Carolina that President Obama recently visited, is one example.

Nationally, more than 2,000 jobs have already been created at new lighting factories. TCP, a bulb maker that traditionally has done all of its manufacturing in China, plans to open its first U.S. plant, in Ohio, where it will make new CFL bulbs. When’s the last time you heard of something like that happening?

How many members of Congress does it take to screw up lighting efficiency standards, harming consumers and costing Americans jobs? Let’s hope that there are not enough to pass a repeal of energy efficiency standards in a last-minute attack based on a lie. Rather than cowering and working to reverse his own legislation, Fred Upton needs to find the courage to stand up to his Tea Party colleagues and speak the truth about lighting efficiency.

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Kim WorthJul 8 2011 08:50 AM

The real problem is that CFL's, the most common alternative to incandescent bulbs, are full of mercury, virtually all of which ends up in landfills, to poison the next generation. W/o a 100% recycling program you're simply switching one problem for another. PS: CFL's don't give as high a quality of light, are difficult to read by.

johnthetreehuggerJul 8 2011 09:26 AM

regarding the comment that CFL's are "difficult to read by"...

that is your opinion and your opinion only.

I have been using those things since they were 10 bucks a bulb in the 90's and am a voracious reader and they are just fine.

in addition, the CFL's are a transition bulb. LED's are coming out and they are more efficient and emit quality light.

so, in reality, the real problem is that there is too much whining and hypocrisy over this issue.

Lynn GipsonJul 8 2011 11:39 AM

I've used them since they came out. I love the lower electric bills! I can't wait for the next generation of bulb. I recycle to save trees, etc. I try to do my part to save this earth for my grandkids and their kids.

P. Edward MurrayJul 8 2011 12:23 PM

Most folks probably are not aware that incandescents will not be replaced and will still be made....

But what about "Outdoor Lighting" too?

Extremely inefficient when you consider bad fixtures that direct light from the horizontal (that causes glare) up through the vertical..causing Light Pollution!

Sandra BechtelJul 8 2011 01:08 PM

The fact that they contain mercury is the reason that this should not be forced upon us. We are contributing not only to the poisoning of our people here in the US, but through the production of these bulbs in foreign countries we are contributing to the poisoning of those workers who are making those bulbs, because you know that those countries are not adhering to any type of safety program designed to help their workers.

When I read about hypocrisy and whining - I think those that support the mandatory usage of mercury laden products and then ramble on about "being green" and environmentally correct are the epitome of hypocrisy.

I can understand using a product without the knowledge of it's deadly potential such as lead and asbestos back in the 50's- but to use a product that we know will poison landfills for years is total lunacy. The benefits do not outweigh the negatives. People should remember Minemata, Japan and the results of industrial mercury poisoning.

Jill LambertJul 8 2011 02:31 PM

I'm sorry, but I hate the new energy efficient lightbulbs and have been buying every box I see of the old ones. The mercury in these new ones are just causing MUCH worse problems! Our town dump doesn't dispose of them as the hazardous waste that they are. My son got extremely sick for several days after being in a small room where one broke! This stuff is POISON and NOT worth the money they're supposedly saving us!

Kit KennedyJul 8 2011 02:54 PM

Thanks to Jill and all others who have commented.

Jill, let me be clear again about one important fact: The new lighting efficiency standards don't ban incandescent bulbs. The efficient incandescent bulbs that I discuss in my blog (see the picture of the three major brands) are available now and they are NOT CFLs and do NOT contain mercury. This is the point of my blog: there are efficient incandescent bulbs on the market now that are 30% more efficient and meet the federal efficiency standards. So if you don't like CFLs for any reason, you won't need to use CFLs -- you can buy these new incandescent bulbs that are more efficient but look just like old-fashioned light bulbs and provide just the same quality of light.
(Of course, CFLs contain only a tiny quantity of mercury -- less than the amount of mercury in a wristwatch battery. I myself use CFLs throughout my house and like them. But again, if you don't like CFLs, you should understand that the new federal efficiency standards don't require you to buy or use them. The new lighting standards don't ban incandescent bulbs.)

Ryan CJul 9 2011 12:27 AM

The light that is produced by CFLs may have a health impact:
I question the longevity claims made by the CFL manufactures. They never seem to last anywhere as long as the box claims. I thought that after I replaced all of my bulbs I was good for several years. It also seems like the bulbs dim with age. I replaced all of my incandescent bulbs with CFLs. First bulbs started failing around 6 months. I noticed that the new bulbs (same batch as original) were considerably brighter than the ones which had been in service for the six months. Quality seems to vary between bulbs much more than with the old incandescent bulbs.
Companies like GE have a vested interest in CFLs and obviously promote them. Too bad they aren't a bigger proponent of PCB cleanup in rivers.

peter dublinJul 9 2011 08:35 AM

Yes, Efficiency standard regulation means BAN:

As in other comment, I agree with you that there are many good ways to save energy and emissions.
However, banning what people want to use is not one of them, and it is a ban...

1. Setting a standard that does not allow certain products is of course the SAME as banning them.

2. Setting efficiency standards that (by 2020) any of today's known incandescents - Halogen or otherwise - cannot meet is the SAME as banning them too.
Regulation explanation and official links

3. To say that if I climb Mount Everest I can smoke a cigarette, does not mean that I will smoke a cigarette.

This "not a ban" argument is typical of the pro-regulation deception arguments used to dupe citizens - waving " lookalike Halogens" around and saying they won't be banned, when in fact they will.

4. The further issue is that energy standards change product characteristics - a fuel efficient car may be lighter, flimsier, less safe, or slower and more poorly accelerating then the equivalent without
fuel efficiency standard
Similarly, replacement-type Halogen bulbs are still different from ordinary incandescents in light quality etc, apart from costing much more for marginal savings, which is why they are not popular either with politicians or consumers:
If people really take up this "offer" to keep using incandescents that are less energy efficient than CFLs or LEDs the national energy savings will be even less than otherwise - see other comment.

They are only (temporarily) available anyway in certain shops in small ranges in post-ban EU, following the same bland promises from politicians there.

peter dublinJul 9 2011 08:50 AM

regarding the ELECTRICITY savings.

1. The overall savings are much smaller than supposed, only a few % of national electricity use as laid out on with official DOE and other references
There are much better ways to deal with electricity generation and distribution as well as consumption, as described on the website, and not all need take time or be expensive.

2. What is this all ABOUT?
Reducing people's use - especially from coal.
So coal could simply be taxed to reduce consumption, a tax income that could help pay for energy substitution or finance poorer households that can't switch suppliers, etc.

No NEED to go around people's homes telling them HOW to use the electricity they pay for.

It is a great pity to effectively ban - see above - a very useful alternative form of lighting your home - for those who want.

Even if incandescents HAD to be targeted they could be taxed
and cross-finance CFLs and LEDs making them cheaper, keeping choice,
as well as saving Government money

The problem with NRDC and others is that you lack overall view and consideration, you just go on about "how great" standards are, you never look at it from any other perspective.

peter dublinJul 9 2011 09:15 AM

Third, on MONEY savings

Consumers will hardly save money anyway - REGARDLESS of what the energy savings are.

That is not just in having to pay more for the light bulbs as an initial cost,
but also because electricity companies are being subsidised or allowed to raise rates to compensate for any reduced electricity use,
as already seen both federally and in California, Ohio etc
(more on this and other CFL/LED programs and electricity subsidies on )

The many other ways consumers are being duped by pro-regulation arguments....

Daniel CorbinJul 10 2011 11:29 AM

If this Bill gets passed it will show just how stupid the GOP are becoming!

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