August 15, 2022

House Votes to Hamper a Law on Light Bulbs

WASHINGTON — The House voted on Friday to withhold funding to enforce part of a 2007 law that increases efficiency standards for light bulbs.

The new standards, which would require most light bulbs to be 25 to 30 percent more efficient by 2014 and at least 60 percent more efficient by 2020, have become a symbol of what conservatives see as an unnecessary intrusion into the market.

“The federal government has no right to tell me or any other citizen what type of light bulb to use at home,” said Representative Michael C. Burgess, Republican of Texas, who offered the measure as an amendment to a 2012 energy and water spending bill. The light-bulb provision was approved on a voice vote; later the House voted 219 to 196 to pass the energy bill.

Although the efficiency regulations do not specify what types of bulbs are allowed, the standards would effectively eliminate many of the most popular choices on the market beginning with the 100-watt incandescent bulb on Jan. 1. If it becomes law, the provision approved Friday would prevent the Energy Department from enforcing the regulation in 2012.

Republicans have complained about the cost of the more efficient bulbs. A Philips Halogená Energy Saver, for instance, costs more than $3, while traditional incandescent bulbs are about 35 cents.

The Energy Department has said the increased purchase prices will be offset by savings on consumers’ energy bills, estimating savings of $6 billion per year by 2015 under the new guidelines.

Representative Fred Upton, Republican of Michigan, who now heads the House Energy and Commerce Committee, inserted the light bulb standards in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which President George W. Bush signed into law. Mr. Upton has since reversed his position on the standards he authored.

Democrats have seized on the reversal, saying it is a sign the G.O.P. is becoming more conservative.

Representative Steny H. Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland and his party’s whip, called the moves this week “a political appeal to the far right wing of the Republican Party.”

In floor debates, Democrats contended that the efficiency standards would help the environment and the economy.

“It reduces the amount of energy that we have to think about importing from other countries,” said Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts. “It’s really a debate about whether or not we’re going to continue to see an increase in the technologies in our society.”

Traditional incandescent bulbs, which use essentially the same design invented by Thomas Alva Edison more than 130 years ago, use only about 10 percent of the energy they consume to produce light, according to the Congressional Research Service. The other 90 percent is wasted as excess heat.

Since the regulations passed in 2007, manufacturers have been developing alternative technologies to decrease the amount of wasted energy, including halogen incandescent bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps and light-emitting diode or LED lights.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu told reporters last week that some of the new bulbs look like current bulbs, turn on instantly and can be used with dimmers, deflecting criticism by Republicans that the newer technologies were inferior.

Earlier in the week, the House rejected a bill to repeal the regulations, because it was brought up under special rules requiring a two-thirds majority. That vote, which largely followed party lines, was 233 to 193 in favor of repeal.

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