Americans will be feeling a new and unexpected pain of government overregulation before they vote in November. Yet, more than two-thirds of the public is currently unaware of what has the potential to be a serious 2014 election issue, representing more government intrusion and meddling with free markets, increased cost, loss of American jobs, and the elimination of choice.
The reality of excessive green-energy policies is hitting home this year with light bulb purchases.
Americans Caught by Surprise
A recent study found only 28 percent of the public was aware of the 2007 law that unrealistically raised the minimum efficiency standards for light bulbs to the point where it effectively turned the 25 cent light bulb into contraband. “In its place,” reports CNS News, “alternative, costly and mercury-filled CFLs are manufactured in China, and incandescent factories in the US have been shuttered.”
The last U.S. incandescent light bulb factory, in Winchester, Virginia, closed in September 2010, leaving 200 well-paid employees feeling they’d been “sold out by the government.” The GE news release about the closure stated, “A variety of energy regulations that establish lighting efficiency standards are being implemented in the U.S. and other countries and will soon make the familiar lighting products produced at the Winchester Plant obsolete.”
As of January 1, it is now illegal to manufacture or import the traditional incandescent light bulbs in the United States.
A Different Energy Era
President George W. Bush signed the “Energy Independence Security Act of 2007” that was cosponsored by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), in a different energy era. Back in 2007, there was a general belief we were truly facing an energy shortage and global warming was a real, manmade crisis. It was thought forcing efficiencies upon the public would reduce energy use and CO2 emissions.
Note: one of the stated purposes of the 2007 act was to move the United States toward “greater energy independence and security.” Light bulbs are powered by electricity. The United States is, and has been, electricity-independent and secure. We import oil for our transportation fleet, not for electricity. Light bulb efficiency has nothing to do with energy independence or security.
Partisan Divide Fixing the Flaws
Republicans, faced with a new abundant energy reality, realized the error of their ways and, in 2011, attempted to repeal the efficiency standards for light bulbs. Upton, who had cosponsored the 2007 bill, stated, “The public response on this issue is a clear signal that markets—not governments—should be driving technological advancements.”
Nearly half of the Republicans who originally voted for the 2007 law, voted for the repeal of the standards in 2011. The repeal failed because, as the New York Times reported, “Democrats, despite being in the minority in the House, were able to defeat the repeal on a vote of 233 to 193 because the measure was brought up under rules that require a two-thirds majority for passage.”
Democrats ridiculed the Republicans for taking “American families another step backward and voting on a bill rolling back bipartisan energy standards which will save consumers $12.5 billion when fully implemented.” Leader Nancy Pelosi’s blog claimed Republicans “are up-in-arms over a provision encouraging the production of more energy efficient light bulbs.” Encouraging? They are mandated by law.
In response to a question about light bulbs that I posted on my Facebook page, one man responded, “I switched to compact fluorescent bulbs years before because it made sense for the money I saved. Not because I was forced to.” It is great that he could afford the choice. However, the New York Post states:
“The average house has about 100 light bulbs. The average cost of a light bulb in 2007 when the law was passed was 25 cents, meaning your house had about $25 worth of light bulbs. Today, those same 100 light bulbs would set you back about $500.”
Tim Carney, in the Washington Examiner, suggests “a middle ground between everyone using traditional bulbs and traditional bulbs being illegal. It’s called free choice: Let people choose if they want more efficient and expensive bulbs. Maybe they’ll chose LEDs for some purposes and cheap bulbs for others.”
Sticker Shock Coming
I posted a quick survey on my Facebook page, asking, “When you get your utility/electric bill, do you pay attention to the kilowatt hours used or to the total dollars?” Within hours I had 118 responses, the vast majority answered “dollars”—which proves my point. Most of us do not know how much electricity we are using, but we know how much we are spending. When the price goes up, but we use less, the bill remains more or less the same. We are not aware of it.
But when it used to cost $25 to equip your house with 100 light bulbs and it will now cost $500, the pain will hit home. Consumers will be asking, “What happened to the light bulbs?” They’ll be told incandescent light bulbs have been outlawed.
As people are literally being forced to live in the dark, there will be a public outcry. As Upton found, the “public response” won’t be good.
I like my light bulbs. Why can’t I keep them?
Marita Noon ([email protected]) is executive director of Energy Makes America Great.