In 2007, President Bush signed into law a widely supported energy bill mandating, in part, that light bulbs use 25 to 30 percent less energy starting in 2012, and 65 percent less energy by 2020. Some say the new standards would effectively ban traditional incandescent bulbs (or at least phase them out) in favor of compact-fluorescent (CFL) and LED bulbs, potentially saving billions in energy consumption. The bulb standards represent a "common-sense, bipartisan approach…," Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said in 2007. But GOP lawmakers have since flipped the switch, leading a charge against the new standards with a repeal measure known as the BULB Act, on which the House is expected to vote Monday. "The American people want less government intrusion into their lives, not more, and that includes staying out of their personal light-bulb choices," says Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). Should the light-bulb legislation be repealed?
Yes, Americans should should have the freedom to choose: "When the government decrees what kind of light bulbs you can screw into the lamp in your own bedroom, even liberals [should] be nervous about the nanny state," says an editorial in The Wall Street Journal. The 2007 law was unwisely passed "at the height of the global warming fad-scare." Now, Republican lawmakers need to save Americans from the "light bulb police." Many consumers simply prefer incandescent bulbs for both aesthetic and health reasons. If CFL bulbs are really so superior, why does the government have to force people to use them?
"The light bulb police"
CFLs are unsafe and typically produced in China: "This wicked law cannot be switched off soon enough," says Deroy Murdock in the Boston Herald. Not only are CFL bulbs aesthetically unappealing, they're also a health hazard — each bulb contains enough toxic mercury to pollute hundreds of gallons of water. And, "Washington's war on the Edison bulb" has cost hundreds of Americans their jobs, as bulb makers have shuttered incandescent plants across the country. Sure, "labor-intensive CFL production is thriving," but it's doing so in China.
"Lighten up, feds"
Hold on — let's get the facts straight here: The efficient bulb standards would greatly lessen America's energy consumption, says Robert B. Semple, Jr. in The New York Times, save families hundreds of dollars each year, and reduce carbon dioxide pollution by 100 million tons. And though "freedom-fighters" like Rand Paul who support BULB act may think the government is infringing on personal liberty, the standards don't ban incandescent bulbs, they just require them to be more energy efficient. The new standards will give consumers more choices, instead of limiting them to "a technology essentially unchanged since Thomas Edison."
"Dim and dimmer"
And, energy efficiency standards are good for the economy: Energy efficiency standards have long encouraged good, old fashioned American innovation, says Rep. Rush Holt in The Huffington Post, catalyzing everything from more efficient refrigerators to cars with better fuel economy. The light bulb standards could well encourage lighting companies to invest money in developing new technologies, something our flailing economy desperately requires. "Repealing the light bulb standards would thwart this progress and cost America jobs and money."
"Shining light on the BULB Act"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Obama just kneecapped Jeb Bush and Chris Christie's 2016 prospects
- It's official: The religious right is calling it quits
- 6 tiny scientific mistakes that created huge disasters
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- 10 classic Sesame Street moments we wouldn't show today's kids
- The dangerously childish morality of liberal ObamaCare supporters
- The myth of the stay-at-home dad
- What could happen if the Supreme Court rules against ObamaCare
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- The slippery slope of Twitter's attempts to stop harassment against women
Subscribe to the Week