The future of bulbs: Will Republicans see the light?

Republicans stall nationwide rollout of energy-efficient bulbs despite free-market will to move forward

Will the switch flip for the GOP?

Will the switch flip for the GOP?

Most people were in the dark this past December, when House Republicans hid language in a $915 billion spending bill that cut funding of the Energy Independence and Security Act. But now, everyone’s seeing the light: The change postponed a nationwide phasing-out of incandescent light bulbs in favor of newer, more energy-efficient counterparts, which was to begin last month.

And now, again, the light bulb has unintentionally maneuvered its way back into the political arena.

“It is unfortunate,” Rep. Doris Matsui wrote to SN&R in an email, “that a rider was attached to the year-end megabus legislation that will delay enforcement of the light bulb efficiency standards.” She reminded that the “common-sense standards” have been strongly supported by both industry and the environmental community.

But, four years after President George W. Bush approved the act, Republicans are now making it a wedge issue, saying the banning of the bulb has shut down factories and cost America jobs. Even some states, such as Virginia, have introduced legislation that would reverse the ban and allow continued manufacturing of incandescent bulbs.

Here in Sacramento, Roseville Rep. Tom McClintock supported last year’s Better Use of Light Bulb Act, which emphasized consumer choice to buy any light bulb, including the old incandescent.

Though funding to enforce the law is at a temporary standstill, energy experts still say nothing will change here in California, where consumers and industry have embraced energy-saving LED and CFL bulbs.

“Manufacturers are producing energy-efficient bulbs,” said Adam Gottlieb, California Energy Commission spokesman. “Stores are selling these energy-efficient bulbs because it makes sense, and people want to save money.”

“Any time there’s a technology that replaces an old technology, there’s a lot of emotional backlash,” explained Brad Copithorne, energy and financial policy specialist at the Environmental Defense Fund. “There’s a small minority of people who claim there are certain types of light bulbs inherently better than others.”

The original Energy Independence and Security Act, inked by former President Bush in 2007, charged companies with producing more energy-efficient bulbs so as to increase conservation and save consumers millions of dollars in electricity bills.

Companies would eventually begin manufacturing these bulbs in time to have ample supply on store shelves by 2011 in California and 2012 for the rest of the country.

The law outlined an annual phase-out schedule, where the 100-watt incandescent bulb would be replaced with an efficient, 72-watt bulb in 2012. After this, a 53-watt bulb will substitute the 75-watt bulb in 2013, and the 43-watt and 29-watt bulb will erase the old 60-watt and 40-watt bulbs in 2014.

Experts say that the classic incandescent bulb wastes 90 percent of its energy heating up rather than lighting up.

The three main types of energy-efficient light bulbs include CFLs, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and the halogen incandescent bulbs. CFLs and LEDs use 75 percent less energy than the traditional incandescent bulb, while the halogen bulbs use up to 30 percent less energy.

Along with the incandescent bulb, the term “watt” is becoming endangered, too, as energy-efficient bulbs use lumens as a measure of light. The new 53-watt bulb, for example, can produce between 1,050 and 1,489 lumens. More lumens equal a brighter light.

Since the law was implemented in California, consumers were projected to save $35.6 million in energy bills in 2011, according to PG&E.

Though companies stopped manufacturing the traditional incandescent bulb, they will remain in existence until they’re sold out.