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Energy Efficiency light bulb ban

Published on December 16th, 2013 | by Tina Casey


Right Wing Yawns As New Light Bulb Deadline Nears

December 16th, 2013 by  

The federally mandated phaseout of inefficient light bulbs will enter its final stage on January 1, and so far all is eerily quiet on the light bulb battlefield. You might recall that the initial stage of the phaseout began in 2012, accompanied by a thunderous volley of complaints by conservative luminaries including Texas Governor Rick Perry, pundits Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, former Congressman Newt Gingrich, Texas Governor Rick Perry, and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, along with the somewhat lesser known Congressman Michael Burgess of Texas, who is perhaps more familiar for his rather unique views on how fetuses while away the hours before birth.

What Light Bulb Ban?

To recap briefly for those of you unfamiliar with the light bulb issue, the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act set a blueprint for reducing petroleum dependency by focusing on lighting efficiency in buildings, among other targets.

Lighting is a juicy, low-hanging fruit for efficiency gains. Lighting accounts for about 10 percent of energy use in a typical home, and conventional incandescent technology wastes 90 percent of its energy in the form of heat. Since the basic technology hasn’t changed in a good century or so, the field was ripe for improvement.

light bulb ban

Light bulb (cropped) by Derek Key.

The “ban” does effectively prohibit manufacturers and importers from bringing old-school incandescent bulbs to market, but it doesn’t dictate what consumers can choose to put in their homes. That leaves open plenty of other options including enhanced incandescent bulbs, compact fluorescent bulbs, and light emitting diodes.

From early on, consumer surveys indicated a willingness to try new lighting, and after some initial fits and starts the lighting industry has come up with solutions that address aesthetic concerns. Costs are also falling rapidly (see here and here for some of our updates).

So, what ban?

That Ban!

Let’s take a look at what conservative groups were saying about the new efficiency standards in advance of the 2012 deadline, with this tidbit from Freedom Action, a spinoff from the Center for Competitive Enterprise:

The light bulb ban is an outrageous government limitation on consumer choice and intrusion into the home of every American. There is overwhelming public support that spans the political spectrum for repealing the ban on incandescent light bulbs.

Yeah, that ban.

The New Light Bulb Ban Cone Of Silence

That was typical of the rhetoric back when the new efficiency standards only affected 100-watt bulbs. As of January 1 2013 the standards effectively phased out traditional 75-watt incandescent bulbs. The third and final phase affects 40-watt and 60-watt bulbs, which are bought in greater quantities, so you would expect much more ranting and railing as the January 1 2014 deadline approaches, amplified as usual by our friends over at Fox News, Free Republic, and other high profile conservative media.

Instead, oddly enough, a quick survey of material circulating around the Tubes provided us with nothing but facts.

Take Fox News, for example. In a December 13 article on the phaseout, reporter Jeremy R. Kaplan starts off thusly:

It’s lights out for the light bulb.

On Jan. 1 it will become illegal to manufacture or import traditional 60-watt and 40-watt incandescent bulbs, thanks to a 2007 bill that set strict minimum efficiency standards – and effectively outlawed the ordinary bulb.

See what he just did there? In one economically worded sentence, Mr. Kaplan provided two important facts about the phaseout that until lately had been buried under an avalanche of alarmist rhetoric: The phaseout was signed into law by President Bush, not President Obama, and it doesn’t dictate what consumers can put in their homes, it only sets efficiency standards for manufacturers and importers.

While paying a generous nod to individual consumers who don’t cotton to new technology that meets the standards, Kaplan finishes up with a pitch from the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, quoting spokesperson Phallan Davis at length and adding his own coda for good measure:

‘NEMA’s members are in the energy efficiency business. Electroindustry products are becoming more and more energy efficient and the systems that often manage their use add to energy and cost savings. NEMA believes that energy efficiency policies, for the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors, should be a central component to any national energy policy.’

Now that’s a bright idea.

We took a peek over at Free Republic to see what they had to say, and all we found was a link to WKRG, which reposted a December 13 article from CNN that took a similar fact-based approach.

Even the notorious breitbart.com (sorry, no link – look it up yourself) launched into the topic with this innocuous lede, followed up with some meaty facts about the efficiency benefits of new lighting technology:

If you want a 40 or 60-watt incandescent light bulb, you’d better get one by Christmas, because they will not be manufactured after January 1, 2014 and will be increasingly scarce. The 40 and 60-watt light bulbs sell more than any other light bulbs, but they are being phased out as their incandescent 75 and 100-watt brethren were phased out at the beginning of 2013.

Okay, so what’s the deal? If our favorite anti-efficiency conservatives are not just laying low in advance of a coordinated sneak attack on the new efficiency standards, perhaps this is just another Affordable Care Act thing where they kick up a huge storm only to discover that, after the dust settles, most folks are supportive of a change for the better.

Stay tuned.

Image (cropped): Light bulb by Derek Key.

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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+.

  • biffula

    No to the freakin’ nanny state. Its my business and no one else as to what light bulb I use. This is the failure dims/libs have. Besides, they’re not really banned. You can find them. There are also exemptions for industrial bulbs, so they’re still being made anyway. I bought a closet full for dirt cheap before the ban anyway, so I’ve provided enough incandescent bulbs for many future generations of my family. I see dopes talking about waiting 4-5 years for the return on their led bulbs. These economic idiots are the reason why the country is saddled with debt that generations not even born yet will be saddled with.

  • Jack Hammer

    What’s not mentioned is the President George W Bush signed the law!

    • biffula

      That’s why we must do away with rinos!

  • Henchy

    The author is a Liberal Lesbian anti everyone..This article has no merit and is merely a hate chant…hey Tina – where do you get your manly suits? Never trust the lies of a Democrat Liberal..always a bunch of liars – with a a garage full of all they ban.

    • A Real Libertarian

      “This article has no merit and is merely a hate chant”

      Do you have evidence, or merely a hate chant?

  • Green Globe

    Why do liberals always assume conservatives (LIKE ME) are against renewable energy, solar, wind turbines, net zero, LEDs, passive house, bio-mimicry, EVs, etc, etc?? Keep the politics out of it including the cheap shots like the A.C.A. at the ending of the article. Why does everything have to be so political in the USA? People watch too much garbage on CNN, FOX and MSNBC and get caught up with it. Those networks are making people into sheep. Many people base their opinions off of opinions that are mentioned on those networks.

    I’m in construction in blue state California and many people I know (Republican) in the industry own construction businesses that provide ‘green’ services and drive EVs and hybrids and have made a KILLING in solar stocks.

    • A Real Libertarian

      Maybe because so many liberals remember the last Republican Presidential candidates idea of fiscal responsibility was “Fire Big Bird, trillions more for the Pentagon!”?

    • Bob_Wallace

      When someone identifies themselves as a conservative then it’s a safe assumption that they are anti-renewable energy. We see the Republican Congress acting in anti-renewable ways and we certainly hear that constantly from the right-of-center press.

      The assumption is that there are few self-identified conservatives who support renewable energy. Although that seems to be changing.

      If you’d like to help break down the stereotype then people like you need to go public with your support for renewables.

      • biffula

        Where do you see repubs against renewables? They’re against stupid laws that force things on people based on junk science. Besides, most repubs are rino’s and might as well be dims anyway.

    • biffula

      Hope you divested from your solar stocks when you had the chance, cause they’ve all tanked now.

  • lighthouse10

    Regarding what is allowed, EISA 2007 law tier 2 2014-2017 backstop final rule of 45 lumen per W equates to CFL standard requirement.
    Oddly, alternative policies are rarely considered…..

    Why Ban Light Bulbs… or Buildings, Cars, Toilets, Showers and much else as part of a society consumption reduction desire?

    Apart from doubtful eventual savings and compromised performance and usability, even if it is still assumed that products need to be targeted in the overall perspective of resource politics, then alternative information, taxation and in particular market policies should be considered before product bans.

    This applies particularly to electrical products, only indirectly coupled to any energy source use, and in turn particularly to light bulbs, which from their main evening-night time use really only consume small amounts of off-peak surplus capacity electricity anyway, again as referenced. (freedomlightbulb org )

    • Bob_Wallace

      Were you paying attention you would know that efficiency efforts are already paying off and cutting our electricity demand.

      In case you don’t realize, that’s a good thing.

      • biffula

        Light bulbs aren’t going to make one bit of difference. Besides, its more important to keep the nanny state out of business than to take private choice and rights away. In case you haven’t been paying attention.

        • Bob_Wallace

          biffula, you show a large amount of ignorance in your comments.

          People who make multiple uninformed statements simply aren’t listened to.

  • Steeple

    Thankfully LEDs rode in to save the day. There are plenty of people who aren’t big fans of CFLs, so thankfully the market provided a better choice.

    • Bob_Wallace

      It’s going to be interesting to see what issues can be dreamed up as the new complaint agenda.

      Cost is sort of a given, but that’s pretty easily beaten down with a one year payback and a 15+ year lifespan. You can “lousy investor skill” shame them on that issue.

      Come on quick. Come in an assortment of colors. Dimmable. Look like Jeebus intended light bulbs to look. No identified harmful ingredients in minuscule amounts around which a great cry of alarm can be raised. Can use them in the refer and outside on the porch.

      I guess they’ll to complain that they aren’t getting enough exercise climbing the stepladder replacing a burnt out bulb every few days.

      Obama’s muslin program to make them get even fatter…..

    • Benjamin Nead

      The top-of-the-line Ikea LED bulb I bought not so long ago is a 10W model that puts out 600 lumens . . . about the same as a 60W incandescent. It produces a pleasant warm (2700° Kelvin) light that – unlike a CFL – doesn’t need to warm up for several minutes to obtain full brightness and it works in a dimmer circuit. Its size and form factor is also identical to an old incandescent, so it will work in tight ceiling enclosures and with clip-on shades. In addition to consuming less electricity, it will probably last around 20 years before burning out. If such a bulb even existed 5 years ago, it probably would have cost $100. This one, though, can be had for around $13.

      Meanwhile, CFLs are now so cheap now that they’re practically giving them away . . . quite literally. My local power utility can often be found at “green lifestyle” public events giving away 4-packs of compact warm light CFL bulbs that would have cost $8 each or more just a few years ago. I also saw single bulbs like this at a local Ace Hardware for 25 cents.

      The conservative ranters lost this battle. They’re now on to attacking solar PV net metering as “an affront to our personal freedoms.”

      • Steeple

        Real conservatives like myself are thrilled about the prospect of harnessing the sun to generate power, and conserving our resources for future generations.

        • Benjamin Nead

          Glad to hear that, Steeple. Perhaps you would be in a better position than I to talk some sense into the ALEC-funded entities profiled here . . .


          • Steeple

            I’m afraid that there are too many incumbent business models (electrical utilities namely) who are seeing their business threatened from both the supply and demand side. They’ll try to hold on for dear life, but I have faith that the markets will work their magic as they usually do. Fighting better ideas is typically a losing proposition.

      • biffula

        Except CFL’s are way worse for the environment than the gains they make in electricity savings. Dims lost the battle on that one…

  • Peter Gray

    Thanks for the interesting article, Tina.

    Up next on Fox: interviews with GOPers claiming to have invented cheap LED lights and promoted them from the start. It’s not just low-info voters we need to worry about; it’s the low-memory ones.

  • Mel Lower

    Cree led light bulbs at home depot give out the same light as a 60 watt but only use 10.5 watts

    • Bob_Wallace

      And they go on sale from time to time. A few weeks ago they were selling for less than $8.

      • sault

        Crap, I keep waiting for one of my CFLs that I bought years ago to finally burn out so I can get a fancy, new LED bulb, but those little piggy-tail lights just keep-on-a-truckin’ year after year despite all the FUD those wingnuts tried to spread about their lifespan.

        • Bob_Wallace

          My ~18 year old CFL finally got dim enough for me to justify retiring it.
          15 years from now changing a light bulb will be such a rare event that when we do need to replace one we’ll tell our friends.

          “I had to think for a while about how you get bulbs out of lamps….”

  • Ross

    All going according to plan then.

  • Omega Centauri

    I think these outfits get their list of talking points from various conservative think tanks. Those think tanks do studies to determine the political effectiveness of the talking points. Most likely they just aren’t effective anymore.

    Or maybe its just that the ACA is now the universal scapecoat.

  • jburt56

    The cost of LEDs declined enough that they couldn’t use that whipping horse anymore. Don’t worry–they’ll find something else to bitch about!!

  • Ondrej Pikna

    People constantly whine when it comes to some changes, change your lights to LEDs. It will cost you what $100 ??? It’s $100 not $1,000,000 and ROI is about 4-5 years. Unfortunately, most of the people are dumb and do not even look into the future.

    • TinaCasey

      Just to add my 2 cents, a few years ago I switched to CFLS and I am STILL waiting for the darned things to burn out so I can switch to LEDs. Meanwhile I am enjoying not having to change my light bulbs. But if anybody out there knows any good light bulb jokes, bring them on.

      • Otis11

        (Maybe not the best jokes, but some glaring truths…)

        How many Republican Congressmen does it take to change a lightbulb?
        Idk, it can’t be done!

        How many Democrats does it take to change the light bulb?
        None! It was done by Bush!

        How many environmentalists does it take to change a light bulb?
        I don’t remember, they haven’t had to change them in years…

      • Henchy

        I love how the banned ones never put poisons out or are have been proven to cause cancer..like the new mandated bulbs…it’s not a joke – just real. I trust studies from Germany more than any lies from the USA these days. I’m guessing the bastard Gore started the company that has much financial gain from the cancer-radiation bulbs….and Tina gets a cut of the Action..Best line evr – “If you don’t believe in global warming, you are racist” ~Al Gore …turns out everything about global warming is a sham and he was just another liberal liar stealing from the people………wake up assholes – the real robbers have been the Dems.

        • A Real Libertarian

          “I love how the banned ones never put poisons out”

          Well except mercury and the rest…

          “or are have been proven to cause cancer..”

          Hey there dioxin!

          “like the new mandated bulbs”

          How do LEDs have any of that?

          “I trust studies from Germany more than any lies from the USA these days.”

          Did you know leprechauns keep stealing your socks? It’s why none of them match! Studies from Germany that I’m not going to show you prove it!

          “I’m guessing the bastard Gore started the company that has much financial gain from the cancer-radiation bulbs.”

          I’m fingering Colonel Sanders, that white suit was always too spotless.

          “Best line evr – “If you don’t believe in global warming, you are racist” ~Al Gore ”

          No, this is best line ever “I cause climate change because I’m.EBILLL! Jeremy Exxon-Mobil, CEO of Koch Industries”.

          “.turns out everything about global warming is a sham and he was just another liberal liar stealing from the people”

          You mean like the American Revolution, Christianity and Pants?

          “wake up assholes – the real robbers have been the Dems.”

          wake up assbutts – the real robbers have been the Girl Scouts and their lesbian cookies!!111!!1111!11!

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