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Effort to Repeal Energy Efficient Bulbs Fails in the House

Noah Horowitz

Posted July 13, 2011

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This week, the House of Representatives defeated the BULB (Better Use of Light Bulbs) Act which would have overturned the federal energy efficiency standards for every day light bulbs that were signed into law by President Bush in 2007. This is great news as these standards are poised to deliver massive benefits: 

  • Annual electricity savings of greater than $12 billion per year 
  • Save as much electricity as that generated by 30 large (500MW) power plants, and 
  • Prevent more than 100 million tons of CO2 emission per year, which is equal to the emissions from 17 million cars.

Since the standards were passed, we have seen more innovation in the lighting space in the past three years than we have in the last 125, when the first incandescent was invented.  Due to the standards, consumers will now have access to incandescent bulbs that use at least 28 percent less power than the older bulbs, as well as many other energy savings choices including compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light emitting diodes (LEDs) that save even more and last a lot longer too.  Due to the onslaught of misinformation spread by the BULB Act sponsors, I feel obligated to remind everyone one more time -- YOU CAN CONTINUE TO BUY AN INCANDESCENT BULBS LIKE THIS ONE AFTER THE STANDARDS GO INTO EFFECT.

Halogen_Incandescent (Credit Anthony Clark_NRDC).JPG

Now that we made it through this hurdle in the House, we hope everyone involved will shift their attention to helping consumers get ready for the new wave of bulbs that will be coming. We need all the involved parties including the U.S. Department of Energy, retailers such as Home Depot, Lowes, Wal-Mart and Ace Hardware, and lighting manufacturers to help get the word out on how the new standards work and how to select the right bulb.

To help jumpstart the consumer education campaign, NRDC put together a two-page fact sheet, and a light bulb buying guide that helps consumers choose the new more efficient bulb to replace their old 100-, 75-, 60- and 40-Watt incandescent. NRDC_JPEG_chart_1.jpg

The chart below from the light bulb buying guide also helps consumers understand the total cost of ownership of the various bulb choices.NRDC_JPEGs_chart_2.JPG

Also, for a state-by-state breakdown of consumer savings from the lighting standards, see this recent NRDC analysis.

In closing, we are happy to see that wiser heads have once again prevailed. The US has a long and successful record of setting energy efficiency standards for a wide range of products ranging from refrigerators, clothes washers to office lighting.  The new standards will simply ensure that a more efficient and money saving bulb goes into each of our nation’s 4 billion screw based sockets. 

What could be more American than that!!

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daily sidelightJul 13 2011 09:55 PM

Well, not everything concerning these bulbs is simply positive:

What about the lost jobs, because the 'cheap' new bulbs are produced in China?

What about the mercury mines, reopened in China?

What about the toxic risk in consumers' homes?

What about recycling of the toxic waste?

For more thoughts and sources of the mentioned arguments please read here:

Linda LancasterJul 14 2011 01:44 PM

Please consider the MEDICAL EFFECTS -- fluorescent bulbs can cause grand mal seizures in photosensitive people. They also can set off migraines in a large number of migraine sufferers in the country.

Lily M.Jul 16 2011 04:37 PM

"What could be more American than that?"

Seriously? How about this: leaving it up to the consumer and the free market to decide what kind of light bulbs we can buy! Not up to the government. Good grief! Please point out the Article in our Constitution that allows the Federal Government to become involved in making these sorts of very basic decisions for me about my life!

Question: How does one dispose of the CFL bulb when it needs to be replaced? Currently, I can drop my evil incandescent bulb in the trash can and send it out with my regular trash Am I correct in understanding that the CFL bulbs (which produce substandard light to read by, in addition to containing hazardous mercury) must be disposed of by taking them to particular recycling centers? And if I should be unlucky enough to break one in my home, it is no longer a simple matter of using the broom and dustpan to sweep up the pieces, is it? At least be honest with people about the hazards of these bulbs being forced upon us by our government.

The American way is to allow the marketplace to set standards and make choices. When our government gets involved at this level of minutiae in our lives, something has gone dreadfully wrong.

Jess GlendinningJul 16 2011 05:57 PM

Although in many cases I would agree that governments should be led by their people in this case i must disagree. In South Africa at the moment, for many reasons including people not making changes when changes needed to be made, the electricity producers are struggling to produce enough electricity to supply our nation. As a result we have freqeunt power cuts called "load shedding" where an area's electricity is cut off for a few hours when the demand is over taxing. At which point everyone ges around muttering about how the government should have done something sooner. In winter this problem is even more frequent. I can assure you it is more inconvenient than properly disposing of CFL's. Yes they are not the perfect solution but we can only hope that they are a stepping stone towards a better one. As the article points out "we have seen more innovation in the lighting space in the past three years than we have in the last 125"

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