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Published on July 17th, 2011 | by Tina Casey


Zombie Light Bulb Legislation Rises from the Dead

July 17th, 2011 by  

House strips funding for new energy efficiency standards for light bulbsOn the eve of the first ever U.S. Army and Air Force joint Energy Forum, which will explore the future direction of U.S. energy policy in terms of national defense strategy, the U.S. House of representatives has just dialed the domestic energy clock back down to the 19th century. Lead by Texas Representative Michael Burgess, last Friday the House passed an amendment to an appropriations bill that effectively prevents the Department of Energy from implementing  new energy efficiency standards for household light bulbs.

Energy and National Defense

Technologically speaking, the Burgess amendment time-travels U.S. energy all the way back to the invention of the incandescent light bulb, about 130 years ago. Back then, the U.S. Army was still using horses and the U.S. Air Force was just a twinkle in its mother’s eye. So yes, conventional incandescent technology is a bit out of step with our time.

Wait a Minute – Didn’t They Kill that Bill?

If you’ve been following the legislative trail of the pro-incandescent movement, news of the Friday’s victory may come as a surprise. That’s because a bill to repeal the efficiency standards was introduced in the House earlier this week and it failed on procedural grounds, much to the delight of U.S. light bulb manufacturers who have already moved on to new high-efficiency technologies. So that means the new efficiency standard is safe, right? Wrong! You know how persistent those zombies can be. Just when you think they’re down, they keep right on coming. The Burgess amendment stripped the implementation funding from the 2012 Energy and Water Appropriations Act, so guess what, no new standards.

Energy Efficiency and Incandescent Bulbs

As reported elsewhere in CleanTechnica, the new light bulb efficiency standards were set under a 2007 law that did not “ban” incandescents, but it did require manufacturers to invest in the R&D needed to create more efficient technologies. At the time, it didn’t look like there was much prospect for engineering a more efficient incandescent bulb, so the emphasis was on improving CFL and LED technologies. However, those intrepid U.S. manufacturers are also beginning to introduce new light bulbs that look and act exactly like traditional incandescent bulbs, only they meet the new efficiency standards.

And We Should Care Because…?

Considering how quickly U.S. manufacturers and consumers are adapting to new lighting technologies that save money, it does seem a little odd that the majority party in the House is spending so much of its energy on pushback. After all, there’s a couple of other things going on that need attention from our representatives in Washington. Couple of wars, bunch of people needing jobs, people needing help dealing with some big fires and tornadoes and floods and stuff…oh yeah, and the whole U.S. is about to lose its credit rating for apparently no reason. Well I guess some things are just more important than others.

Image: Incandescent light by FeatheredTar on flickr.com. 


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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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