Barton’s bulb battle isn’t over


A GOP effort to repeal a 2007 energy law requiring more energy-efficient light bulbs failed in the The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, but the bill’s main sponsor says he’s not done fighting yet.

“The issue is too important to let it go away,”  said Rep. Joe Barton (R-Arlington), who has cast the Bush-era law that phases in more efficient bulbs as a battle against Big Government.

“It is the perfect symbol of government over regulation and that is why we will continue to look for avenues to bring this bill up and ultimately repeal the de facto ban on traditional light bulbs,” Barton said in a statement.

The rules require new bulbs sold in the U.S. to be 25 to 30 percent more efficient than traditional incandescent light bulbs. Compact fluorescent lights (aka CFLs, those squiggly-looking light bulbs) are largely seen as the most likely replacement, but the higher upfront cost of the CFLs and the small amounts of mercury in them have been rallying points for opponents.

With the first deadline for the phase-in of the new efficiency standards looming — 100-watt bulbs must meet the new standards by Jan. 1, 2012, 75-watt bulbs by 2013 and 40-watt and 60-watt bulbs in 2014 — Barton and others launched efforts to repeal the rules.

Supporters of the efficiency standards, such as the National Resources Defense Council, say the law can cut U.S. household power bills by about 7 percent or an average of $85 every year when fully implemented (state-by-state savings ranged from $225 per year in Hawaii, $92 in Texas down to $51 in North Dakota). It could also eliminate the need for 33 large power plants.

But Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Denton), who worked on the bill with Barton, emphasized the upfront costs of the move in his statement against the standards.

“The new bulbs cost more and at a time when American families are already tightening their budgets, they should be able to choose the standard inexpensive bulb that has been available for years,” Burgess said.

NRDC counters that costs are being exaggerated by efficiency opponents. A shopping guide NRDC put together (written by someone comparing prices in the Washington, D.C. area) found the CFLs aren’t the only option:

“I found a Philips 72W efficient incandescent bulb for $1.50 at Home Depot.  The 100W bulb was cheaper – it was just 31 cents. Both bulbs are rated to last 1000 hours, or about 18 months at 2 hours per day.  But, the electricity I’ll save with the more efficient bulb covers my extra up front cost in just seven months.

For the remaining 11 months the product operates, I’m making money.  Altogether, I figured my total cost (bulb plus electricity) with the conventional bulb is $10.59 while my total cost for the efficient incandescent is just $8.90.” 

A series of stories in Chemical & Engineering News also notes how the phase-out of incandescents is opening the door for LEDs (light emitting diodes) to become more competitive with CFLs.

“LEDs are somewhat more energy efficient than CFLs, and they last about 50,000 hours, versus 10,000 hours for CFLs. But LEDs are expensive.

A recent C&EN check of the Home Depot found 40-W-equivalent LED bulbs on sale for about $18 each. Comparable fluorescents were on sale for about $1.00 each. To capture more of the lighting market, Anwar says, LED makers must bring costs down to a “more manageable level” by scaling up manufacturing.”

Tom Fowler

35 Responses

  1. Energy Moron says:

    Howdy Neighbor:

    Okay, the stuck record on my CFL experience. Actually there is a friendly competition with our German neighbor going on and he is beating all of us… but anyway.

    After one of your posts on the dumb meters I went out and found 7 watt CFLs for the ceiling fan fixtures (22 of them) and 8 watt LEDs for the outdoor lights (6 of them) to replace 13 and 25 w CFLs. I also located (gasp) 2 remaining incandescant 40 w bulbs in the house.

    Using the 15 minute interval function of the dumb meter website (it doesn’t help me with anything but one can make cool graphs to better convince folks) I determined a 2 kWH saving per day was in order, which is pretty much like the theory said.

    2 * 0.12919 (green mountain current price) * 365 = 94 dollars per year.

    On a 160 dollar investment.

    1 CFL has failed to date.

    I just e-mailed you the proof…

    Oh, and Sam’s comment… another libertarian comment. A true conservative is for conservation. Go back to Madison and the original Federalists/Whigs where promotion of business efficiency and moral values (which in those days was abolition of slavery) went hand in hand. Conservatives are not against REASONABLE regulation. It is very unreasonable on both sides to declare certain areas verbotten for regulation… and incredibly hypocritical.

    Can we just have Tip and Ronald have a beer together again?

  2. Owl_of_Bellaire says:

    Perhaps Republicans don’t believe in food-health standards, either, since they take away your right to buy food tainted with botulism. And perhaps Republicans disdain auto-safety, tailpipe-emission, and gas-efficiency standards, too, since they take away your right to buy a 12 mpg tin can that will belch black smoke all over the freeway and kill your children when going over speed bumps. Perhaps Republicans are opposed to workplace-safety standards, since they take away your right to run a factory which has a measurable turnover in workers’ fingers, so long as your employees are willing to show up and be paid.

    Or maybe Republicans are just hypocrites.

  3. shockwave says:

    And I suppose all you people were screaming bloody murder when the govt. mandated seat belts for cars, too?

  4. Sam says:

    Why is it that freedom of choice for liberals only seems to extend to lifestyle and abortion, otherwise they think that they are able to force their ideas upon everyone else. I bought a number of CFL bulbs and found them to be junk. They often take a LONG time to generate anywhere their rated light output, usually generate far less than their rated light output and often fail in a short time. So in effect, you liberals are sticking your noses in my business and forcing me to buy an inferior product just to make YOU happy. Liberals want to tell us how to live every phase of our lives. Enough already. I will buy a better light bulb when it is a better light bulb and that goes for any other product. You don’t want us making your decisions about your lifestyle choices and abortion and I don’t want you making my economic choices with my cars and my light bulbs.

  5. Kros says:

    Since the debt crisis is looming, are we serious that the GOP has nothing better to do than rehash a 2007 law (enacted under the Bush administration). National Debt or Light Bulbs. really?

  6. Jim Smith says:

    The issue here is choice. I usen CFL’s in 90% of my light fixtures; however, I frequently use portable clamp on work lights in the garage and outside. These have a habit of being knocked around quite a bit. It is much cheaper to use incandescent bulbs in these type fixtures because the bulbs sometimes get broken when the fixture is moved or falls. I should be able to replace these cheaply and easily without the worry of spreading mercury in my house or garage. I am all for saving energy, but I still want choice.

  7. Bert says:


  8. roadchick says:

    Nukeboy, I said fossil fuels, not foreign oil. Last time I checked, coal is a fossil fuel.

  9. mikey says:

    jason11, you rant about ‘pollution’ and somehow you are linking lightbulbs to pollution and carbon. Do you have any sources? Please at least take the time to PROVE lightbulbs contribute to pollution before spreading that BS.

    Think about people who leave their A/C running 24 hours a day. I bet those people cause more pollution and “carbon” than any lightbulb ever will. “Heavy handed regulation” is all about control.

    And you know what? I do have the right to go out and buy a 1940 Cadillac V8 that spills gas all over the freeway. So, you’re also wrong about that.

  10. jason11 says:

    CFL bulbs that work with a dimmer are just now hitting the market.

    Until there is a price put on the social cost of pollution, a heavy handed regulation like this is the best way to go. A distant second best, but still a push forward for the country.

    You dont have the freedom to buy a .10 cent lightbulb and pass along the carbon/pollution cost to people living downwind/stream of the power plants. Thats not freedom.

    Just like you dont have the freedom to buy a cheap car that happens to randomly spurt flames that incinerate anything close to the car.

    Pretending that this kind of cost/profit shifting is about ‘freedom’ is a joke.

  11. CaptSternn says:

    I see a major business opportunity here if somebody wants to take it up. Set up shop in Mexico to make the incandescant bulbs most people want and sell them to U.S. citizens online. That way democrats would get what they want, the destruction of private industry and jobs in the U.S., the people could still get what we want, the incandescant bulbs, and maybe it would keep some people south of teh border because jobs wouldbe in Mexico.

  12. Nukeboy says:

    This light bulbs will not make us less dependent on Foreign oil, almost no electricity plant runs on oil anymore, they are too expensive…get a life, well might have too if Obama shut down the coal and nuke plants…..

  13. w00t says:

    Whe they’re done they can discuss giving me back a toilet that flushes more than a cup of water and a shower head that doesn’t just dribble.

  14. Paul says:

    Too bad Joe Barton wasn’t in Congress in the ’70s. He could have kept the government out of the fuel economy business, and we could all still be driving 10-mpg gas guzzlers.

  15. Theotis Dumnang says:

    Dear Congress,

    Go to hell and stay out of my life!



  16. Sam says:

    Good point Bob.

  17. Nukeboy says:

    The CFL does not like to be turned on and off quick and may cause premature failure (i.e. like in garages/bathroom) where you may not be in that room for a long length of time… sit back and watch, people on the boarder states will go across the board to buy the old bulbs. The law is doing away with the bulb because they can’t make they won’t with less electricity.

    The govt needs to stay out of our business…..

  18. Trail Trash says:

    Pro-Choice for a fetus, but not for a light bulb.

  19. mikey says:

    Government has no business telling me what bulbs i can use. How about this? Stay out of MY business. If I CHOOSE to use inefficient bulbs — and CHOOSE to pay for such bulbs — Then so be it. God bless my freedom to do so.

    P.S. I love dimmer switches, good luck dimming a CFL bulb ;)

  20. Ryan says:


    First, your paintbrush is too broad. Painting all Rs as “against energy efficiency” would be akin to painting all Demo’s as pro-murder (abortion), when that’s not reality at all………….

    In truth, we have not the infrastructure or resources, at this point in our country’s history, to implement and sustain a “green” economy, whether wind-, solar- or LP-powered.

    Why do Democrats push overhyped “environmentally friendly” legislation that puts U.S. jobs in jeopardy just so they can “feel good” about themselves? I didn’t see them passing C&T or any other of their “green” initiatives when Ds had a supermajority AND the POTUS. Maybe the Dems are “against things that are energy efficient”?

    I’ve heard of “white guilt” and “self-hating-whatever”, but the greenies’ environmental-guilt and their attempts to assuage it via often-burdensome and job-killing legislation is sad…, contemptible.

    Who’s going to clean up the Mercury in these Earth-saving fluorescent bulbs?

  21. Bill Gore says:

    One significant factor that was missed in the article is that incandescent lamps operate at only a 10% level of efficiency. That means that the 100W incandescent lamp referenced in the article uses only 10W to create light and 90W goes directly into the environment as heat. Think “Easy Bake Oven”. Not only does a 25 watt compact fluorescent lamp provide as much light as a 100 watt incandescent, since it is much more efficient it adds very little heat to the room. These days with near 100 degree day-time temperatures, anything that decreases the load on my air conditioning system is welcome.

  22. MrProgressive says:

    I hear Mr. Barton is asking for a new standard for incandescent bulbs along with his reform bill. When you turn on a light it will be required to flash the message, “We’re sorry BP.” How about focusing your efforts on something of some importance, Mr. Barton?

  23. ReligionISForTheWeak says:

    Laula, you can use Halogen lights that are perfectly natural looking. They are slightly more efficient but not by that much…you’d probably save 20 watts per bulb. If you want to save energy, buy LED lights…not the cheapos from 5 years ago but the next generation.

  24. Bob says:

    If it’s about “FREEDOM OF CHOICE” then why did the Republicans rush through one of the most intrusive government regulations in state history; the sonogram bill? I can’t wait to hear the justification for this.

  25. George E says:

    Bob. this is one that dosen’t. I have them in every room in my house and have not changed any in the past 4 years. The first I installed has been going for almost 6 yrs now. I did have one that didn’t live over 2 yrs but think being outside may have been part of the reason it didn’t last long. Being from Arlington have a hunch Mr. Barton spent too much time out in the sun if he worked for SixFlags as a kid.

  26. Laua says:

    What about those of us who simply hate (in my case, with a passion) the harsh, industrial-looking light put off by fluorescent bulbs? While they’ve improved in recent years, they’re still unpleasant and I’ll never use the things willingly.

  27. jukester says:

    Its not an arguement of whether one type of bulb is cheaper to operate, or more expensive than another. It is about FREEDOM OF CHOICE, versus having NO choice because big brother government took it away from you. This is the United States of AMERICA, founded on personal liberty = freedom. If there is an economy in using a newer type of bulb, then great – the free market will incentivize that choice. But please, DO NOT TAKE AWAY MY ABILITY TO MAKE A PERSONAL CHOICE. Go away please, big brother government!!!

  28. roadchick says:

    Art, read the article or go shopping. CFLs are only a few cents more than incandescents. You’ll make up that difference in just a few minutes of using the bulb.

  29. TheWorldsFavoriteMexican says:

    “It is the perfect symbol of government over regulation”
    Does this mean Texas is going to use incadenscent light bulbs on mandated Texas Sonograms – the republican symbol of over regulation.

  30. Bob says:

    Why are Republicans always against things that are energy efficient? All they see is the initial cost of these light bulbs. The long term benefits such as a reduction in the amount of fossil fuels we burn and eventual independence from foreign oil is completely lost to them. Amazing. That’s why I’ll never vote Republican, they have no vision.

  31. Harry Lime says:

    Nice scam. GE holds the patents on the swirlies and gets royalties from licenced manufacturers. It’s the same con Dupont pulled when the patent on R-12 expired. Just remember all that mercury going into landfills and into the sea.
    BTW- I actually prefer the swirlies. They do last much longer than incandescents.

  32. Art Vandeley says:

    A clueless goverment that is out of touch with people’s day to day cost of living. Common sense steps can be made to save electricity without puttiong American families in the poor house. Buy food or lightbulbs….hmmm tough choice.

  33. roadchick says:

    Bottom line is these bulbs will save consumers money because they use way less energy. One would think people would applaud something that makes us incrementally less dependent on fossil fuels, but no…Joe Barton and his ilk have whipped this up into a nanny state thing. Must be the same type of people who refused to believe the world was round and that the Earth rotates around the sun. Arrgh!

    Remember, Barton is the same guy who wanted to apologize to BP for making them pay damages for the oil spill.

  34. liz J says:

    Guess Joe couldn’t get in on the Roger Clemens trial?

  35. olivia says:

    I am going to write Mr. Barton a letter and tell him I feel the way he does.