In a vote that put political expediency over energy efficiency, the U.S. House of Representatives voted Friday to save the incandescent light bulb, at least for another year. It approved an amendment to withhold funding to implement a law that would eventually require the elimination of inefficient bulbs in favor of energy-saving products.
The obvious merits of such a switch were pretty much ignored. Those who argued that the government has no right to tell people what bulbs to use carried the day.
Conservatives might relish the triumph, but it is a hollow one. There are major, proven efficiencies and savings to be gained from replacing the familiar incandescent bulbs with new technology.
Though the new law did not specify which kinds of bulbs must be used, the standards are such that only the compact fluorescent bulb or light-emitting diode lamps likely would meet the new requirements over time. They do cost more, but use significantly less energy. The savings once new bulbs were in widespread use could be considerable, perhaps as much as $80 or so a year per U.S. household.
Never mind that Republican President George W. Bush strongly endorsed and then signed the original energy savings bill, or that widespread use of efficient bulbs could save the nation about $6 billion a year by 2015 when new guidelines would take full effect. In an almost straight party-line vote, Republicans, who generally say that the nation spends too much, voted to allow Americans to waste money for a bit longer on an inefficient product easily replaced by an efficient one.
There’s nothing wrong with a law that promotes more efficient light bulbs. The vote to prevent enforcement of it is proof that many legislators remain in the dark when it comes to the massive benefits of energy conservation for the nation, and our environment.