Will the House turn out the lights on Rep. Joe Barton’s light bulb bill?

Rep. Joe Barton defended his light bulb legislation on the House floor today against Democrats who decried the Texan’s attempted repeal of a 2007 energy law requiring incandescent light bulbs be 30 percent more efficient by 2012.

Rep. Joe Barton said Monday that the federal government should no decide how light bulbs Americans are able to buy. (AP Photo)

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

“We should let the marketplace decide,” said Barton, R-Ennis. “We should repeal this de facto ban and we should let people decide if they want to buy a $6 light bulb or a $0.39 light bulb.”

Barton proposed the Better Use of Light Bulb act last January. It would halt the phase-out of incandescent bulbs approved in the 2007 energy act. The 2007 federal act is not a flat ban on incandescent light bulbs, instead it creates new standards for those bulbs. The old 100-watt incandescent bulb will disappear from shelves in January 2012, with 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 pass. A final vote is expected by Tuesday.

Opponents of the bill said member 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 that 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 shelf price.

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

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.