The Exchange

Republicans Bungle the Battle Over Light Bulbs

The Exchange

Republicans in the House of Representatives are taking a stand for your right to light -- progress and savings to the American consumer be damned.

These valiant defenders of the Constitution, according to Bloomberg, "adopted a provision designed to save traditional incandescent light bulbs by blocking what one lawmaker called the 'energy police' from enforcing an efficiency standard."

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As Bloomberg points out, bulb makers such as Royal Philips Electronics and General Electric have already worked to make bulbs more efficient. In fact, like any other corporate endeavor in the known universe, they're in favor of greater efficiency. They also see the benefit to giving the Energy Department the ability to enforce efficiency standards, as it would prevent lesser foreign products from negatively impacting the business.

In essence, House Republicans are fighting to preserve your right to choose an increasingly outdated technology with few benefits even if it means putting themselves at odds with the business community they profess to serve. Should you wish to light your abode by torch light, so be it. Sure, open flame presents a huge safety hazard and the fumes can kill, but one's rights cannot be infringed upon, correct?

That absurdity of the battle over bulbs was punctuated in March 2011 when Senator Rand Paul (R. Ky.) questioned Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency Dr. Kathleen Hogan, opening his time by conflating one's right to choose a light bulb and abortion rights. It would be funny if it weren't just so, well, dim.

"The point is, is that most members of your administration probably would be frank and characterize themselves as pro choice for abortion, but you're really anti-choice  on every other consumer item that you've listed here, including light bulbs, refrigerators, toilets, you name it," said Paul to a visibly perplexed Hogan.

The issue, far right Republicans argue, is one of regulation. Forget the energy crisis, forget efficiency, forget potential advantages for American businesses. According to Energystar.gov, if every American home replaced one traditional bulb with an energy saving bulb it would save enough energy to light 3 million homes for a year, save $600 million in energy costs and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.

Now consider a 2009 EnergyStar report that found that the average U.S. household has more than 40 light bulb sockets, and that lighting accounts for 20% of annual household electricity bills. Those advantages should be ignored, nay shunned, even if it helps the American consumer keep more money in their pockets.

After all, when the government starts regulating things, it can never have a positive impact. Never forget the failures of government regulation when it comes to smoking, fuel efficiency standards, pollution control measures…

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