Sunday, March 13, 2011

Law on Light Bulb Efficiency Angers Conservatives - Give Up Familiar Light Bulb? Not Without Fight, Some Say -

According to Edward Wyatt writing in the March 11, 2011 New York Times:American protests against the encroachment of government have been spurred by many causes — tea, of course, and guns, frequently. The latest catalyst: light bulbs.

A 2007 bill, passed overwhelmingly by both houses of Congress and signed into law by George W. Bush, will make the familiar incandescent bulb subject to strict efficiency standards next year.

The effect will be to make current 100-watt bulbs obsolete — and that has sent conservative lawmakers, libertarians, some environmental activists and owners of Easy-Bake Ovens into a frenzy of activity to get the law repealed or, at least, to stockpile the bulbs before they disappear from store shelves.

The law does not outlaw incandescent bulbs or dictate that consumers must use ... compact fluorescent lights.... Rather, it sets standards for the amount of light emitted per watt of power used. Current 100-watt bulbs must become 25 percent more efficient, and makers are designing new bulbs.

To Representative Joe Barton, the Texas Republican who has sponsored a bill to reverse the new guidelines, that nevertheless means Congress is dictating what types of light Americans can use in their homes. 
Opponents of the regulations say the fluorescent bulbs are too expensive, flicker annoyingly and are health hazards because they contain mercury.

While they are not unanimous on the issue, some environmental activists counter that by saying the mercury in a single fluorescent bulb is less than what some power plants throw into the atmosphere while generating the electricity it takes to light one incandescent bulb.
Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who introduced a bill to repeal the light bulb law in 2008 and again this year, talked about the issue,... Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky said not only did he resent the light bulb standards but he also blamed the government for poorly working toilets in his house because of the regulations on how much water they should use.

... Last fall, General Electric closed its last major United States plant producing the old-style incandescent bulbs, in Winchester, Va.

Nearly all compact fluorescent bulbs are made in Asia, although some United States manufacturers are retooling former factories to make other energy-efficient bulbs.

Several companies in the United States are working on light-emitting diode, or LED, bulbs, and on energy-efficient halogen incandescent bulbs....

... Kathleen Hogan, deputy assistant secretary for energy efficiency at the department, told a Senate committee this week that by meeting the new lighting standards, consumers could save nearly $6 billion in 2015.

A household that upgrades 15 current incandescent bulbs could save about $50 a year, Ms. Hogan said, even after accounting for the higher cost of the fluorescent bulbs, which average above $1 each, versus about 35 cents for incandescent.

Halogen incandescent bulbs now cost about $1.50 each, and LED bulbs, which have only begun to be introduced, can cost $20 or more each, though they can last 10 years or more. Three-way bulbs, appliance bulbs and a few other specialty products are excluded from the new standards.
The Environmental Protection Agency issues detailed instructions on how to clean up a broken fluorescent bulb because of the potential for spilling mercury. Each bulb contains about four milligrams of mercury, compared with 500 milligrams in old-style glass thermometers.
The E.P.A. recommends recycling used fluorescent bulbs rather than disposing of them in household garbage.
by Edward Wyatt
The New York Times
March 11, 2011 

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