A group of congressmen, including one Michele Bachmann, are backing legislation to repeal what they call the "light bulb ban."
Which is sort of like proposing legislation to repeal the flying spaghetti monster. Like the "bulb ban," it exists only as the figment of vivid imaginations.
Talk radio and its minions in Congress have been spreading a trope that in 2007, Congress adopted legislation to outlaw the familiar incandescent light bulb and to force consumers to buy those twirly-looking compact fluorescent lamps - a plot, they assert, to strip Americans of their freedom to buy any damn light bulb they please.
Congress did pass energy legislation in 2007, by broad, bipartisan majorities. President George W. Bush signed it into law a day after Congress finished work on the bill.
Beyond that, the rhetoric of the "bulb ban" crowd departs sharply from reality.
The legislation did not ban incandescent light bulbs. It set efficiency standards for general-purposel lighting. Nothing new or diabolical there. The first legislation setting efficiency standards for stuff you plug in was signed a quarter century ago by Ronald Reagan. Thanks to that legislation and follow-on laws signed by Reagan's successors, consumers are saving billions of dollars per year that otherwise would be spent on wasted energy.
The lighting efficiency standards begin phasing in next January. The lighting industry, which didn't want a patchwork of state standards, advised Congress on drafting the legislative language and signed off on the final product. The wording requires bulbs to be 28 percent more efficient than conventional bulbs, which waste 90 percent of their input energy on heat throwoff. The law doesn't care what technology manufacturers use to meet the standards.
So, what's up with the "bulb ban" rhetoric? Bachmann and her like-minded allies argue that the 2007 law restricts freedom of choice.
That's exactly the opposite of what's been happening in the lighting market. Philips, GE, and Sylvania beat the law's deadline and have introduced incandescent products that meet the law's requirements. Other lighting manufacturers are ready to jump in. The new products have that familiar light bulb shape, deliver the same amount of light, and produce the same warm coloring. They can be used on dimmable circuits and don't have a speck of mercury in them.
Same light, same look, but more energy-efficient. It's not a bulb ban. It's a product upgrade.
The new and improved lights are on the market today. You can buy them. Or not. You can buy compact fluorescents instead. Or not. You can buy LED lighting. Or not. You can mix and match and buy some or all of the above. There are more lighting choices than ever before. That's the case today and will be the case next year and the years following.
Lighting manufacturers are fighting the repeal because they have geared up to design, make, and market new products that comply with the law. American businesses are good at solving practical problems. They are interested in marketing good products that people want to buy. They are not interested in conforming to whatever litmus tests that ideologues dream up in their talk radio bubble chambers.
If anything deserves scorn, it's not the 2007 energy law. It's politicians who seem to have enough time on their hands for political posturing and pointless legislative capers.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.