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Repeal of Lightbulb 'Ban' a Dim Move

by Matt Reed
Florida Today, December 20, 2011

Sneaky repeal of lightbulb regs burns business, real freedom

People who love cheap, energy-hogging light bulbs have come out surprise winners in the budget deal just passed by Congress.

Buried in the spending bill was a talk-radio inspired provision that killed new efficiency standards for light bulbs, due to take effect Jan. 1.

Repealing the so-called ban on incandescent bulbs was pitched as a blow for freedom and for keeping the reach of onerous regulations out of our homes. Republicans, meanwhile, have pushed for more "certainty" and lower costs for business to help the economy grow.

But passage of this bright idea could actually mean less freedom and higher costs for everyone in the long run and in ways that matter profoundly.

The rider has potentially wasted four years and millions of dollars that U.S. corporations have invested in new plant and equipment to meet higher standards.

And it makes hypocrites out of a bunch of politicians who -- on other days, in other sound bytes -- complain that America has "no energy policy."

Among the potential local losers is Lighting Science Group of Satellite Beach, an up-and-coming manufacturer that has produced millions of super-efficient LED light bulbs. Lighting Science would have grown even more as demand swelled under the new rules.

"Improvements in energy efficiency can reduce the need for investment in energy infrastructure, cut fuel costs, increase competitiveness, improve consumer welfare and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Lighting Science CEO Jim Hayworth said in a July statement that urged Congress to keep the standards. "Lighting is the low-hanging fruit in reducing energy consumption: It accounts for 19 percent of the world's energy use."

Good plan, scuttled

The vote means we have given up a gain in freedom from higher costs, pollution and foreign despots in order to pay less per lightbulb while buying them more frequently.

Let's take another look at those onerous freedom-stealing light bulb regs, shall we?

Complicating matters, California passed state-level standards to match the federal rules, meaning the manufacturers must continue to build the new products. Retailers have purchased massive inventories of more durable and efficient compact flourescent bulbs, which are more expensive.

Less real freedom

Technically, the "rider" added to the budget deal doesn't erase the standards. It just renders them toothless by defunding any attempt at enforcement by the U.S. Energy Department. At least, for the next budget year.

That gives foreign companies a window in which to dump cheap, old light bulbs into the U.S. market, undermining American companies that played by the rules, says the National Electrical Manufacturers Association.

Congresswoman Sandy Adams, R-Orlando, was among those who have voted to cancel the new energy-efficiency standards even as former space engineers and technicians in Northern Brevard try to make new careers in alternative energy and equipment.

Said Adams, after an earlier vote to repeal the lightbulb standards: "I will continue to stand by policies that encourage a competitive consumer-driven market, rather than a government-dictated one."

But if we can't even agree to buy lightbulbs that lower our power bills, what hope do we have of real energy independence and a healthier climate?

Matt Reed
Repeal of Lightbulb 'Ban' a Dim Move
Florida Today, December 20, 2011

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