Budget Deal Gives New Lease on Life to Incandescent Bulbs

Image: Budget Deal Gives New Lease on Life to Incandescent Bulbs Incandescent bulbs at American Light Bulb Manufacturing Inc. in Mullins, S.C.

Wednesday, 15 Jan 2014 12:12 PM

By Drew MacKenzie

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The federal government is backing off pressure on consumers to dump their incandescent light bulbs and replace them with more energy efficient bulbs.

The massive new $1.1 trillion budget deal, expected to pass both chambers this week, prevents the Department of Energy from spending any money to enforce the new tougher efficiency standards for light bulbs, which went into effect on January 1, according to USA Today.

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The move is likely to slow down the phasing-out of the old-style bulbs, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2007 after a bipartisan vote.

The phaseout started in 2012 with 100-watt bulbs being eliminated and then last year 75-watt bulbs were shelved. This month the 60-watt and 40-watt bulbs are being phased out.

Despite the energy savings and the savings in electric bills, many Americans were far-from-thrilled with paying for new more efficient bulbs because of the higher costs to buy them in the first place.

The lighting industry is pushing consumers to purchase a similar 60-watt light emitting diode bulbs, known as LEDs, which cost at least five times as much as an incandescent bulb. But they last 22 times longer and are far less costly to operate.

Estimates put the cost of 60-watt LEDs at $1.14 a year compared to $7.23 a year for the incandscent 60-watt bulb when used for three hours a day at 11 cents per kilowatt hour.

The phaseout is not aimed at prohibiting stores from selling their stock of old bulbs, but prevents them from buying new imports while also stopping lighting companies in the U.S. from making them, notes USA Today.

House Republicans have failed in the past to prevent the phaseout, and so they added on a section in the new budget that defunded its enforcement. Kentucky Rep, Harold Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, slammed the light-bulb-efficiency standard as "onerous" and said he was thrilled with the lifting of enforcement funding.

Despite the changes in the budget, the old-fashioned incandescent bulbs are becoming increasingly less available in department stores and lighting shops, which are instead carrying LEDs and CFLs (compact fluorescent lamp), believed to be 90 percent more efficient.

"The market has marched forward despite this rider," says Franz Matzner of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group. "The manufacturers have all been saying — we're going to comply anyway."

Matzner added that he was annoyed by the change, claiming that it could leave the door open for illegal imports of incandescent bulbs from overseas.

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