Barton’s Bonehead Bulb Bill Back. Zombie Legislation rises again.

July 19, 2011

Joe “I apologized to BP” Barton’s bill to boost the bonehead bulb is back.  The real reason it’s so tough to kill inefficient 19th century technology is of course, because by using efficient bulbs, we remove the need for dozens of new coal fired power plants.

Mass Climate Action Network:

You would have thought that last week’s defeat of the Barton Bill on a voice vote would have settled the light bulb question for a while, but this is the U.S. political system, after all.

Facts, rumors, and distortions have been flying for months, and heating up even more in the past few weeks, about the on and off switches of the US Legislature regarding rules for energy efficiency of light bulbs.

It’s a light issue next to the question of whether the United States will have a functioning government after August 2nd. Yet in its own way I think of it as a small but fully featured model of the mutually repellant forces that are tearing apart the American legislative system and making effective policy on climate change  impossible to achieve in this legislative session.

Here’s a quick summary of the situation: In 2007 the Legislature approved, and President Bush signed, a law to increase the energy efficiency of light bulbs, which is to be fully implemented by 2014. Now several Republicans of a contrarian stripe have determined to block the law by passing new legislation to negate it or make its implementation impossible. Texas Rep Joe Barton’s BULB Act was defeated on a voice vote on July 12, failing to win a two-thirds majority of the House.  Most recently, Rep. Michael Burgess’s (R-TX) amendment to block enforcement of more-energy-efficient light bulb standards  passed the House of Representatives by a voice vote on July 15.

LA Times:

Contrary to what congressional critics have been saying, a law passed during the George W. Bush administration does not ban incandescent bulbs. Rather, it phases in higher requirements for energy efficiency that the old incandescents — in use for more than 100 years since they were developed by Thomas Edison — do not meet because much of their energy creates heat rather than light. Starting in 2012, the traditional 100-watt bulbs go off the market, followed over the next two years by lower-wattage bulbs. California is moving ahead even more quickly, phasing out the 100-watt bulb this year.

The incandescent bulb is an old favorite, shedding a warm glow. It’s cheap to purchase (though other bulbs ultimately cost a lot less). That’s why politicians have begun efforts to repeal the bulb law. After one such bill failed in the House last week, Republicans revived and passed it in the form of an amendment to the Energy Department’s appropriations bill, stripping out funding for enforcing the law. That amendment faces more resistance in the Senate, but the move has given impetus to efforts in several states to get around the law by exempting bulbs manufactured and sold within state boundaries. Such a measure passed the Texas Legislature; others are pending in Pennsylvania and South Carolina.

It remains to be seen whether those state bills would have much impact. The light-bulb industry supports the new energy standards and has been closing old production lines and improving technologies. An incandescent-halogen hybrid looks the same as the traditional bulb yet meets the federal standard. New fluorescents give off a warmer light than they used to. Light-emitting diode, or LED, bulbs initially cost a bundle — $30 or so — but provide the desired glow, last decades, are dimmable and use a fraction of the energy.

Many opponents complain that the bulb law is an unwarranted government intrusion on their right to buy the product of their choice. But it’s actually about setting standards for production, which the government does in many areas. Cribs must meet safety standards; new homes must meet energy standards; roofs have to meet fire standards.

Concerned readers may wish to ask their representatives, why, with the government about to be shut down, they are wasting their time reviving 19th century technology.

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