Barton defends light bulb bill on U.S. House floor

Texas Congressman Joe Barton defended his proposed light bulb legislation on the U.S. House floor today against Democrats who decried the Texan’s attempt to repeal a 2007 energy law requiring incandescent light bulbs be more efficient by 2012.

Republicans and Democrats sparred about the price of energy-efficient incandescent light bulbs, the dangers of new compact fluorescent bulbs and the role of the federal government to regulating light bulbs.

“We should let the marketplace decide,” Rep. Barton, R- TX, said. “We should repeal this de facto ban, and we should let people decide if they want to buy a $6 light bulb or a 39 cent light bulb.”

In January, Barton proposed the Better Use of Light Bulb act that would halt the phase-out of incandescent bulbs approved in 2007 energy law, which was signed by Republican President George W. Bush.

The 2007 energy act does not ban the use of incandescent light bulbs, but it instead creates new standards for those bulbs. Under that law, the old 100-watt incandescent bulb would disappear from shelves in January 2012, with the 75-watt, 60-watt and 40-watt bulbs following.

Barton brought the bill to the House floor under a suspension of the rules – a procedural move barring the addition of amendments to the measure but requires a two-thirds majority to pass. The legislation will likely need support from Democrats to past.

The House was expected to vote on the bill this evening, but that vote will likely be postponed until Tuesday.

Opponents of the bill said members of the GOP were trying to scare Americans into thinking the 2007 standards would ban all incandescent bulbs. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., said Congress has regulated energy efficiency since the Ronald Reagan administration and the 2007 standards helped spur industry growth.

“In Congress, we don’t always agree on much, but for the last 25 years, we’ve agreed on energy standards,” Doyle said. “The lighting industry has already begun to revolutionized. When the industry agreed to these standards, they did it because they knew they could still be profitable.”

The energy-efficient bulbs are more expensive than regular incandescent light bulbs, a point of contention for Republicans who said their constituents can not afford the more expensive bulbs.

“It is time for us to say, ‘it was a bad idea. It is bad policy, and it’s time to take it off the books,'” said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., who co-sponsored the bill.

Democrats were quick to say the new efficient incandescent light bulbs and compact fluorescent light bulbs can last significantly longer than their counterparts. The Natural Resources Defense Council issued a report Friday defending the new standards and asserting that they could save Americans $12.5 billion in energy costs nationally by 2020.