Well, they did it. During the sausage making that went into a 2012 budget bill last week, a House rider slipped through that bars the Department of Energy from enforcing incandescent lighting efficiency standards that begin taking effect on January 1. Assuming the bill is passed and signed into law, as seems likely at this writing, the standards stay on the books, but until the end of the fiscal year next September 30, DOE can't enforce them. Even though lighting products that comply with the 2012 standards already are on the shelves at a home improvement store near you.
I know, I know. Only in Dee Cee. As an associate of mine put it: "A remarkably dim-witted decision, even by current political standards."
The result of Congress acquiescing to talk radio demagogues haranguing that freedom isn't free without 100-watt incandescent light bulbs is likely to be marketplace confusion. Lighting manufacturers, who invested millions of dollars in good faith to design and produce light bulbs that meet the standards, are left with at least nine months of uncertainty. The standards already are in effect and being enforced in California, so the lighting industry faces a patchwork that would make life unnecessarily difficult. Congress, despite all its talk about helping business create jobs, has just thrown a spanner into the works for one industry in order to indulge the political fringe in another ideological excursion.
Senator Jeff Bingaman, the New Mexico Democrat who chairs the Energy and Natural Resource Committee, believes Congress' latest banana peel moment "may have little practical consequence on which incandescent bulbs are available in stores because, starting Jan. 1, it will be illegal to produce or import the inefficient, wasteful bulbs in the United States. The five major lighting manufacturers have already switched to making and selling the better bulbs." Hope Bingaman is right.
The standards were adopted in 2007 legislation that took into account the lighting industry's needs, was passed by wide bipartisan majorities, and was signed promptly by President George W. Bush. The standards phase in over three years, from 2012 to 2014. In practice, the standards require lighting manufacturers to replace 100-watt incandescent bulbs with 72-watt incandescent bulbs that produce the same amount of light, beginning January 1. The 2013 and 2014 standards would do likewise for incandescents that produce lower amounts of light. Same light, less filling for your electric bill. Why is paying less for the same quantity of light an attack on liberty? Perhaps I'm naive.
Anyway, will the lighting industry continue tooling up to meet the standards that take effect in 2013 and 2014? Couldn't blame them if they decide not to, since there's no telling what will come out of Dysfunction Junction next year. Congress could free DOE to enforce the standards or renew the enforcement ban. No way to predict. The battle resumes next year.
And here's another angle. During the nine-month enforcement holiday, the gullible who bought into talk radio's false line that the gummint is "banning" incandescent bulbs could be targeted by schlocky foreign manufacturers that would like to relieve them of their money to buy and hoard "banned" incandescents of dubious quality in case Congress decides to unleash the light bulb police next year.
To repeat: "A remarkably dim-witted decision, even by current political standards."
Previous Green Conservative Posts on this Topic:
> The Incandescent Light Bulbs that Meet 'Bulb Ban' Standards
> Will the 'Bulb Ban' Cost You More?
> The Truth About the So-Called 'Bulb Ban'
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