You have to love it. Congress in all of its wisdom decided to postpone the enforcement of the new 100 W light bulb standards until next September. The legislation was passed in 2007 and signed into law by President George W. Bush. American light bulb manufacturers supported the legislation and have spent millions on new equipment to produce light bulbs that will meet the new standards. Congresses ban on enforcement opens the door for inferior foreign light bulbs to make a huge killing over the next nine months.
The Chicago Tribune reports that Congress postponed the enforcement of the new light bulb efficiency standards in last nights passage of the omnibus spending bill. The new efficiency standards still go into effect but the Department of Energy can’t enforcement them for nine months.
The National Electrical Manufacturers Association, the trade group whose members produce more than 95 percent of the light bulbs sold in the United States, supported the new energy efficient standards. It said its members have invested millions since Congress approved the standards in 2007, preparing to comply with the new rules, which remain in effect even if they will not be enforced.
"The industry is concerned that any delay in federal enforcement … will undermine those investments and also create regulatory uncertainty," said Kyle Pitsor, vice president of government affairs for the trade group.
The standards were approved in the 2007 Energy Independence & Security Act (EISA) in Title III sections 321 and 322 . It required light bulb manufacturers to reduce the amount of wattage needed to produce the same amount of light (lumens) produced by a 100 W incandescent bulb. Manufacturers were required to produce bulbs that used only 72 W to equal the same amount of lumens. By reducing the amount of energy required to produce the same amount of light, individuals, communities and the nation would see savings. Energystar.gov describes the law and why it was enacted below.
Under the new law, screw-based light bulbs will use fewer watts for a similar lumen output. The standards are technology neutral, which means any type of bulb can be sold as long as it meets the efficiency requirements. Common household light bulbs that traditionally use between 40 and 100 watts will use at least 27% less energy by 2014. The law applies to the manufacturer date and will begin affecting 100-watt bulbs in January 2012 and end with 40-watt bulbs in January 2014. California began the transition one year earlier.
The second part of the law requires that most light bulbs be 60-70% more efficient than the standard incandescent today; this will go into effect in 2020. Many compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and many Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) can meet this requirement today, shaving energy usage compared to standard incandescents by 75%.
Efficiency is measured by the number of lumens per watt a bulb provides. Lumens tell us how bright a light bulb is. Watts tell us how much energy the light bulb uses.
EISA is eliminating unnecessarily wasteful products from the market. There are 4 billion light bulb sockets in the U.S. and more than 3 billion of them still use the standard incandescent technology that hasn’t changed much in 125 years. A standard incandescent is only 10% efficient – the other 90% of the electricity it uses is lost as heat.
Another benefit of using more efficient light bulbs includes reductions of harmful emissions from coal-fired power plants (mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel, acid gases and greenhouse gases1). This helps to protect the health of our citizens, wildlife and environment, and it’s an easy, achievable step toward reducing our carbon footprint.
Additionally, efficient products mean cost savings. The new standards mean U.S. households collectively could save nearly $6 billion in 2015 alone, as estimated by U.S. Department of Energy.
The change in light bulbs should reduce the amount of CO2 emissions the equivalent of the pollution generated by 24 new coal plants.
While some people seem to think that this is the governments way of forcing us to use CFLs that contain harmful mercury, they forget that incandescent bulbs have high levels of lead that are harmful. Consumers will be able to choose among an assortment of different bulbs from CFLs to LEDs to Halogen. Really, light bulbs haven’t been safe since their inception by Thomas Edison in the 1880s, we just haven’t given it much thought.
Congress may have been striking some sort of strange stance for “freedom of choice” but what they have really done is harm American manufacturers without helping much of anyone.