The GOP's Crazy War on Lighting Efficiency Standards
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
By a voice vote on Friday, the House passed a “light bulb ban” amendment to the 2012 Energy and Water Appropriations Act (HR 2354). The amendment, offered by climate denier Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), prohibits spending to enforce the incandescent lighting efficiency standards in the 2007 energy law signed by President George W. Bush. These standards have already spurred the lighting industry to create innovative new incandescent bulbs that are dramatically more efficient than the century-old design the Tea Party is bent on defending. This amendment will hurt jobs, hurt manufacturing, and hurt the environment — helping instead coal-powered electricity producers who depend on wasteful use of energy. The standards were originally proposed by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), who turned his back on better light bulbs in order to curry Tea Party favor and get the chairmanship of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. This is but the latest example of House Republican leaders promoting a right-wing, dirty energy agenda that harms families and businesses rather than investing in innovation, new products, and jobs — even if they came up with the idea in the first place.
“You may have heard Glenn Beck talking about Fred Upton introducing a bill to ban incandescent light bulbs,” FreedomWorks blared last year. “The truth is, Fred Upton has a Big Government record a mile long, and light bulbs are just the beginning.” “The light bulb ban is the perfect symbol” of the Congressional assault on “personal freedom,” Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) screamed, as he challenged Upton for the energy committee chairmanship. “In at least 40 instances since the beginning of 2011, conservative media outlets wrongly told consumers that the light bulb efficiency standards scheduled to take effect in 2012 will require them to use compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs),” Media Matters found. Upton quickly reneged his previous reality-based stance, bowing to Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. Cash from Koch Industries, which was among his top 10 donors in 2010, aided Upton’s flip. Koch’s Americans for Prosperity has campaigned hard against the efficiency standards, claiming that “Congress is now in the business of telling us what type of light bulbs we can buy.” Before Friday’s vote, the Koch-fueled conservatives tried and failed to pass a permanent repeal of the efficiency standards.
The 'Light Bulb Ban' That Isn't
In fact, there is no “light bulb ban.” Because of the advanced light-bulb standards Upton helped pass in 2007, “the incandescent bulb is turning into a case study of the way government mandates can spur innovation,” the New York Times reported last year. “There have been more incandescent innovations in the last three years than in the last two decades.” The new light bulb efficiency standards are supported by the light bulb manufacturing industry. “When this bill was passed, it was passed by people who knew how to make light bulbs,” says Randall Moorhead, vice president of government affairs at Philips, a leading light bulb producer. “Everyone supported it. And since then, it’s created more choice for consumers — we have two incandescent bulbs on the market that weren’t there before.” The standards will save about $100 per household annually in lower electricity costs, or about $12 billion per year when fully implemented. In the words of the descendants of Thomas Edison, inventor of the incandescent light bulb 132 years ago, “The technology changes. Embrace it.”
Losing the Future
The Tea Party movement is increasingly attacking American innovation and 21st-century jobs on all fronts: Rush Limbaugh is leading the charge against the first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, the Chevy Volt; Republican governors are killing high-speed rail; Glenn Beck is cooking up conspiracy theories about smart grid technology; Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is trying to kill the wind industry; and the entire right-wing movement wants Americans to believe green jobs are going to destroy the United States economy. This month, the House adopted by voice vote a Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX) amendment to nullify Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act, signed by President Bush. The section prevents the federal government from buying high-carbon fuels like tar sands oil or coal-to-liquids. Also passed, an amendment from Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) to prohibit spending on international clean-energy program activities (except for Israel). The House of Representatives is also funding climate disaster relief by slashing funding for high-speed rail and clean cars. However, even the Tea Party Congress couldn’t rustle up the votes to deliberately raise a generation of ignorant energy wasters. By a 181-233 vote, the House rejected an amendment from Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL) that would prohibit federal websites that teach children about energy efficiency. Forty-eight Republicans joined every Democrat voting against this amendment for energy illiteracy.