US Military light bulb ban

Published on January 10th, 2014 | by Tina Casey


Dim Bulbs Dither As Military Doubles Down On Climate Change

January 10th, 2014 by  

As far as the US Department of Defense is concerned, climate change is a done deal, but you wouldn’t know that if you were wandering the halls of Congress the other day. Instead of legislating national policy in the interests of a strong national defense, the usual suspects were hard at work on preserving…century-old lighting technology. Good job, guys!

Yes, the light bulb ban is once again a priority for certain conservative legislators, who have been working off and on for the past several years to repeal the part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 that sets new efficiency standards for light bulb manufacturers.

The new standards effectively mean it’s lights out for conventional incandescent bulbs, which waste 90 percent of their energy in the form of heat.

light bulb ban

Light bulb (cropped) by wheany.

Waving The Light Bulb Ban Banner

We’ve been following the light bulb preservationists since the phase-in of the new standards began in 2011. The preservationist movement started out as a loud, long call to arms but it began to lose steam as the phase-in took hold, and when the last deadline passed on January 1 there was barely a whisper in defense of the old bulbs.

Well, it looks like those brave champions of wastefulness were just taking a breather. Our friends over at have alerted us that the light bulb torch has been passed to Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-South Carolina), who has just introduced H.R. 3818 repealing the relevant section of the 2007 energy act.

To be fair, according to Hill reporter Pete Kasperowicz there doesn’t seem to be much interest in supporting H.R. 3818 beyond Duncan and Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas), who made an impassioned statement in support of the old bulbs, although it seems he lost his way at some point with a quote from legendary musician Willie Nelson suggesting he has already given up the fight:

As Willie Nelson has said: ‘Turn out the lights, the party’s over. They say that all good things must end. Turn out the lights, the party’s over,’ for at least Thomas Edison’s light bulb.

The Dragnet Perspective On Climate Change

In contrast, let’s take a look at what the US military is saying about the need for effective action on climate change, through the window of a recent briefing attended by newly minted Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey).

We happened to catch an interview with Senator Booker yesterday on WSOU, the hard rock station that broadcasts out of Seton Hall University, conducted by station manager Erin O’Grady.

When asked by O’Grady to describe the transition from Mayor of Newark to becoming a US Senator, Booker mentioned the briefing and he zeroed in on climate change. This is what he had to say, apparently channeling Joe Friday:

 ….as a US Senator you’ve got to be up and on top of military issues…I was amazed at one of them, [who] was telling me, ‘look, we don’t debate climate change, we just prepare to deal with the facts.’

And if the military is not prepared for rising sea waters, and if the military is not prepared to find alternative fuels and energy  so supply chains shouldn’t be getting endangered in a crisis [and don’t] undermine our defense capabilities, then we’re going to be lost.

So hearing a general say, ‘hey look, we’re doing the logical thing based on the facts, from biofuels to finding ways to conserve energy and reduce carbon output,’ that’s to me the kind of practical thinking we should be having all over our society right now.

…Let’s just do what the facts compel us to do.

The above is an unofficial transcript and if you want to check out the SoundCloud audio for yourself it starts at 11:40. Also for the record, Dragnet’s fictional detective Joe Friday did not utter the famous line, “Just the facts, ma’am.” He said, “All we want are the facts.”

Support Our Troops!

Booker touched a lot of bases with those brief comments in terms of what the Department of Defense is doing to develop a leaner carbon profile.

We’d also like to note that portable solar power and other forms of new energy technology are being integrated into forward operating bases and field maneuvers by the US Army and Marine Corps.

In tandem with new fuels and new technologies, “culture change” and “energy informed culture” are the kinds of words being used by top-level officials to describe how they expect military personnel to adjust their habits and behavior to get the most out of new energy technologies and help drive down dependency on fossil fuels.

As for Rep. Sessions and Rep. Poe, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they just didn’t get the memo.

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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+.

  • Doug

    Do any US companies still make incandescent bulbs? With the looming deadline to phase them out, I would be surprised if significant manufacturing remains in the US. If HR3818 passed, would we need to import the bulbs from overseas?

    • Bob_Wallace

      The House could pass it. Unlikely the Senate would. And it would not get signed into law.

      This is just another campaign event like the 40 bogus repeals of the Affordable Care Act. (That’s now provided over 9 million Americans with health coverage.)

  • Hari

    In any army, logistics happens to be the weakest link when troops go on the offensive and enter hostile areas. If there is a long ‘tail’, it faces threats and it can be cut off by the enemy. Food and fuel happens to be the what keeps an army marching on. So having portable bio-fuel,solar or wind energy back up systems would help any army out in the field. Army units also spend considerable energy on their communication systems. Perhaps the matter of changing light bulbs, incandescent ,CFL or LED do not mean much to a tough soldier crawling through a swamp and getting bitten by all the insects in the country than to the comfortable officers in the well lit base lines who had sent them out. NATO allies had recorded high causalities in Afghanistan and Pakistan when hostile groups have attacked their convoys which mainly transport fuel. So it makes sense for any army to switch to renewable, portable and for inexpensive energy sources in future.

    • Bob_Wallace

      There are problems and expenses for getting materials to the “rear lines”, not only forward bases.

      Look at the difficulties we’ve had getting supplies into Afghanistan. We’ve had to ship massive amounts through Pakistan and at times found that route blocked.

  • rick jones

    We’d also like to note that portable solar power and other forms of new energy technology are being integrated into forward operating bases and field maneuvers by the US Army and Marine Corps.

    How much of that is really out of climate concerns versus concerns over protecting vulnerable supply lines? Put another way, assume we waved a magic wand and everything stayed the same but all the global warming properties of fossil fuels and peak oil concerns and whatnot went away. Would the military stick with transporting fossil fuels along supply lines, or would they do what they were doing?

    • RobS

      There’s no doubt that’s a huge part of it, the US military spent $300 per gallon of fuel delivered in Iraq and Afghanistan on securing fuel supply convoys and lost over 3,000 Us soldiers in attacks on fuel convoys. Liberating the military from the need for fuel deliveries will save billions and thousands of lives.

  • Incandescent bulbs waste about 98% of the energy they consume as heat.


    Among the least bad are 200W incandescent that are a whopping 2.7% efficient at producing some light. Smaller wattage bulb are worse…

  • Omega Centauri

    Politicians are dealing with the “facts” as those facts affect their own careers. The number one job is maintaining good relations with large political donors. Quite a few of these large donors have major interests in maintaining the fossil fuel industry. So in the world of the politician, fundraising is the most important criteria, and they are responding to it.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Our fault.

      We could change the rules.

    • Ross

      There are so many competing vested interests. Other vested interests that are impacted by climate change or who can gain from the solutions will force change.

  • Steeple

    The argument against incandescents has changed dramatically over the past 5 years as LED technical progress has been staggering. Thankfully we now have economic options that don’t include CFLs.

  • Ronald Brakels

    We phased out incandescent bulbs over four years ago in Australia and so far civilisation remains uncollapsed. It was a very efficient move because not only did it cut energy used for lighting, it also cut down on waste heat put out by lighting which reduced the amount of energy required for air conditioning.

    • We have a very contagious and nation crippling disease. It is spread by our 95% conservation MSM and AM radio, it is called RWNJs. So far it has proven to be incurable. Long effective treatments such as: logic, reason, facts, personal experiences,… have thus far failed.

      • Senlac

        Yes, indeed but look on the bright side, they all have religion, isn’t that nice. They have God on their side.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I have to question that assumption.

      You seem to have displaced your dim bulbs into your high government offices.

      • Ronald Brakels

        Bob, just because they’re not very bright and produce a lot of hot air doesn’t mean your comment isn’t accurate.

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