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Light Bulb Repeal Bill Stalls in Congress
A bill to repeal the banning of ordinary incandescent light bulbs is bottled up in a congressional committee despite Americans’ apparent distaste for the more expensive bulbs that would replace them.
The 100-watt incandescent bulb is scheduled to be outlawed in January 2012, the 75-watt bulb will disappear in January 2013, and the 60-watt and 40-watt bulbs in January 2014.
The bill banning the bulbs — which use more energy than newer bulbs — was introduced in 2007 by then Rep. Jane Harman, a California Democrat, and Rep. Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, and signed by President George W. Bush in December 2007.
Upton is now chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and while lobbying Republicans for the post he vowed to repeal the section of the 2007 bill that bans incandescent bulbs.
“We have heard the grass roots loud and clear, and will have a hearing early next Congress,” he said in December. “The last thing we wanted to do was infringe upon personal liberties, and this has been a good lesson that Congress does not always know best.”
In January, Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton proposed the Better Use of Light Bulb (BULB) act, which would cancel the phase-out of incandescent bulbs. The bill has 62 co-sponsors, 61 of them Republicans, and a companion bill in the Senate has 28 co-sponsors.
But Upton’s committee has not yet held a hearing on the bill, and “House Republican leadership has evinced no interest in bringing the Barton bill to the floor,” Diana Furchtgott-Roth, an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute, writes in RealClearMarkets. “Calls to repeal the incandescent light bulb ban are coming from consumers, who prefer incandescent lamps.”
“Chairman Upton,” she adds, “how about voting Mr. Barton’s bill out of committee and sending it to the House floor?”
Once incandescent bulbs vanish, Americans will have to purchase either compact fluorescent bulbs — known as CFLs — halogens, or light-emitting diodes (LEDs).
All three cost significantly more than incandescent bulbs, although they last longer. Many people don’t like the light cast by CFLs — the cheapest of the three — and they must be disposed of at special recycling centers because they contain mercury. They also pose a danger if broken in the home.
Another factor to consider: Incandescent bulbs are made in the United States, while almost all CFLs are made in China, according to Furchtgott-Roth.
She concludes: “Consumers should be free, in my opinion, to choose the light bulbs they prefer. If Congress believes that consumers should conserve energy, it can impose a tax on the model bulbs whose use it would discourage, or on electricity in general.”