Senate Considers Repeal of Incandescent Bulb Ban

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The proposed BULB Act takes aim at upcoming federal legislation that will phase out incandescent light bulbs starting next year. (Stock Photo)

A bill that would repeal an upcoming ban on incandescent light bulbs received lukewarm reception in Congress Thursday.

The Better Use of Light Bulb (BULB) Act, introduced by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) last month, would stop the implementation of a ban on incandescent bulbs slated to go into effect in 2012. Energy efficiency experts from government and business told the Senate Committee on Energy and National Resources that the BULB Act would move the country backwards.

“The BULB Act… would cost consumers and manufacturers money and result in higher energy use and higher bills,” said Kathleen Hogan, the Department of Energy’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for energy efficiency.

The incandescent light bulb ban was a component of 2007’s bipartisan Energy Independence and Security Act. Committee chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) said the BULB Act counteracted what had been a decade’s worth of bipartisan support for measures to enhance energy efficiency, particularly in household appliances.

“The proposal is of concern to me because it goes against this tradition that I spoke about of broad, bipartisan support for consensus appliance standards,” he said.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the committee’s ranking member, cited mercury content, lower light quality and a buzzing noise as drawbacks of compact fluorescent lights and other energy-efficient light sources. Murkowski said it was not the government’s place to tell consumers which type of bulb they must use.

“I think it is fair to say that light bulbs have really become the hot topic around Capitol Hill now,” she said. “They have become … a very visible, very tangible symbol of the overreach of big government. I can certainly sympathize with that sentiment.”

Hogan cautioned that repealing the ban would cause confusion in the industry, which she said is already adapting to the new standards.

“There’s great value in one national standard creating one national market for these bulbs,” she said.

The committee also heard testimony the Implementation of National Consensus Appliance Agreement Act, a bipartisan bill cosponsored by Bingaman and Murkowski. The bill would enact tougher energy efficiency standards for 20 household appliances, including air conditioners, outdoor lighting, furnaces and water dispensers.

“This legislation would continue to protect and create jobs by reducing regulations on business through the preemption of multiple state standards with simpler, more stable and more predictable Federal regulations,” Bingaman said. “This legislation would also reduce the power and water bills of American households and businesses, free those savings for other uses, make our economy stronger and more competitive, and would help protect the environment by avoiding the environmental impacts of reduced energy production.”

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