Light bulb ban riles up lawmakers

The so-called light bulb ban, set to begin in 2012, has become a rallying point for conservatives, libertarians, and various free-market activists who deride what they see as unnecessary government interference in the marketplace.

A bill calling for light bulbs to become gradually more efficient beginning in 2012 and ending in 2020 -- what
critics are calling a ban -- passed in 2007 with bipartisan support and was signed into law by then-President George W. Bush (right).

Because of those higher standards, traditional bulbs will probably be phased out, to be replaced with more efficient incandescent bulbs, compact fluorescents and LEDs.

Republicans have been under considerable pressure to roll back those higher efficiency standards, though the House on Tuesday failed to pass a measure that would have done just that.

"The government has taken upon itself to decide what people should buy," said Myron Ebell, head of Freedom Action, an activist group he described as "hardcore free market."

Ebell's group has been circulating a petition online that he said has garnered tens of thousands of signatures. Many of those who've signed
have written their legislators urging an end to the ban.

The cause has other champions as well, including Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann (right) and radio show host Glenn Beck.

Supporters of maintaining higher efficiency standards have been touting the economic benefits.

Even though fluorescent light bulbs cost about five times more than
incandescents, Americans would save a total of $12 billion a year by 2020 if the standards are left in place due to lower electricity bills, said the Natural Resources Defense Council.

That works out to $85 per year for every household.

But what really motivated the higher standards to begin with was a desire to save energy and cut pollution. NRDC estimates the standards would eliminate the need to build 33 coal-fired power plants by 2020, when the standards are fully in effect.

"Clearly, consumers, the economy and the environment will suffer if these standards are repealed," said Jim Presswood, NRDC's federal energy policy director.

NRDC noted that incandescent light bulbs will still be available after the standards go into effect, just ones that are more efficient (and more expensive).

Rethinking the Light Bulb

Other alternatives will also be available, including LED bulbs and compact fluorescents.

Concerns about the mercury in compact fluorescent bulbs have led some to rail against the higher standards. Mercury is a toxic substance that's been linked to developmental problems in children.
NRDC said that it is working with light bulb manufacturers to lower the amount of mercury that goes into the bulbs. Plus, the amount of mercury levels is tiny compared to the amount emitted by coal-fired power plants to power inefficient incandescent bulbs.

But for critics it's all about choice. If people want to save money over the long run by buying a fluorescent light bulb, that's fine -- they just don't want the government to force people to do it.

When it comes to reducing pollution, critics say cutting down on pollutants like sulfur dioxide that cause acid rain or asthma is a worthy cause. But they argue that going after carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that scientists believe causes global warming, is a waste of time.

Most of those who want to overturn the ban do not believe in global warming, despite the consensus among the scientific community.

"The evidence that the earth is warming up just isn't there," said Ebell. "It can't possibly be a crisis."

My Own Experience

When I first started doing this blog, I had not switched yet to the CFL
bulbs because like many I found the price of each bulb somewhat high. Then, after a family discussion, we decided to replace so many a month until they were all replaced. That was several years ago. My family and I decided that if the bulbs were not as advertised then we had tried and could go back to the incandescent bulb if the CFLs did not live up to their advertised benefits.

Well, the CFL bulbs not only lived up to the claims; they exceeded them (and this was using Wal-mart's cheaper version that they were pushing at that time to win people over). I have approximately 30 overhead lights and lamps. The incandescent bulbs we were buying had to be changed once every 2 to 3 months (so that was on an annual basis, a total of 240 over a period of 2 years (30 bulbs X 4 changes per year X 2 for number of years compared). Using these bulbs do save us some money and every little bit helps.

When we began using the CFL bulbs we have had to change (for burnout) 2 bulbs over the 2 years (initial bulb cost was about 75 dollars plus the replacement of the 2 bulbs would add another 4 dollars to it
for a total cost of 79 dollars. That's a difference of over 200 dollars!). The rest are still burning just as brightly as they did the day I put them in the light fixtures.

The bulbs are saving me money, giving me as much light as I had before, and a small way I can help make a difference. Before you write them off, try one and see what you think. You might just surprise yourself like I did.

CNN Money,"Light bulb ban riles up lawmakers", accessed July 13, 2011


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