published Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

South Carolina lawmakers take a dim view of new light bulbs

Richard Anderson, a 70-year-old Greenville, S.C., retiree, shops for light bulbs at a Lowe's in Greenville. With a looming federal mandate to phase out incandescent bulbs in favor of energy-efficient fluorescents, South Carolina legislators may try to exempt the state from the law, saying it shouldn't be told how to light its homes and businesses. "For me personally, I donít like the fact that I donít have the choice," Anderson said."ìBut I'll say at the same time I don't have a problem with the fluorescent lights." (AP Photo/The Greenville News, Patrick Collard)
Richard Anderson, a 70-year-old Greenville, S.C., retiree, shops for light bulbs at a Lowe's in Greenville. With a looming federal mandate to phase out incandescent bulbs in favor of energy-efficient fluorescents, South Carolina legislators may try to exempt the state from the law, saying it shouldn't be told how to light its homes and businesses. "For me personally, I donít like the fact that I donít have the choice," Anderson said."ìBut I'll say at the same time I don't have a problem with the fluorescent lights." (AP Photo/The Greenville News, Patrick Collard)

By JIM DAVENPORT

Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina lawmakers are taking a stand in favor of states’ lights.

With incandescent bulbs being phased out under federal law in favor of energy-efficient compact fluorescents, legislators want to exempt South Carolina from the measure, saying Washington has no business telling the state how to light its closets and countertops.

The proposed state law, called the Incandescent Light Bulb Freedom Act, “allows South Carolina to say to the federal government we are going to exercise our rights,” said Republican state Rep. Bill Sandifer, a co-sponsor.

The federal government is phasing out incandescent lights starting with 100-watt bulbs in 2012. In 2014, manufacturers will stop making 75-, 60- and 40-watt bulbs, too, under the 2007 Bush administration law. But the squiggly, energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs have drawn complaints that they are too expensive, put out a dim, sickly light, contain traces of mercury and take too long to reach full brightness.

As early as Tuesday, the South Carolina House will begin debating a bill that would allow companies to manufacture incandescent bulbs in South Carolina as long as they stamp them “Made in South Carolina” and sell them only within the state. Supporters of the bill say the federal government would have no authority to intervene because its power to regulate business extends only to commerce that crosses state lines.

South Carolina has only one, small manufacturer of incandescent bulbs, but the hope is that others will set up shop here, too, if the law passes.

Arizona lawmakers tried the same thing a year ago, passing a bill that would have declared incandescent light bulbs manufactured entirely within the state exempt from federal regulation. But Republican Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed it. Texas, Georgia and Minnesota have also considered clinging to incandescent bulbs, but none has passed a law. California embraced the new federal regulations a year early.

The South Carolina bill is expected to win approval in the House, though its fate is far from certain in the Senate, and Republican Gov. Nikki Haley has not offered her support. Even if it became law, it would probably be challenged in court.

And Randy Barnett, a constitutional law expert at Georgetown University, said the state would probably lose, in part because it wouldn’t be able to keep people from buying incandescent light bulbs in South Carolina and using them in another state.

California lost a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court case with a similar underlying legal issue. That dispute involved whether medical marijuana grown in the state is subject to federal laws against pot.

South Carolina lawmakers have a long history of going against the federal government. In the past year they have taken up bills to stall federal health care legislation and create their own currency. Before that, of course, came slavery, states’ rights, secession and the Civil War, as well as a century of foot-dragging on segregation, seat belts, drunken driving and the drinking age.

Incandescents, the design basically created by Thomas Edison in the late 1800s, create light by passing electric current through a wire filament. But 90 percent of the electricity is wasted as heat instead of light. Fluorescents burn cooler.

The newer bulbs are more expensive — about $3 for a 25-watt fluorescent versus about $1 for a 100-watt incandescent — but supporters of the new technology say the lights last so much longer that they save money in the long run. An incandescent bulb may burn for 750 to 2,500 hours, while a compact fluorescent can last up to 10,000 hours, according to the Energy Department.

If the South Carolina bill passes, it could boost hiring at American Light Bulb Manufacturing Inc., which has a factory in Mullins, in an impoverished, rural part of the state, president Ray Schlosser said from the company’s headquarters in Schaumburg, Ill. The plant is in Marion County, the state’s capital for unemployment, with one-fifth of the work force jobless.

“The federal government was just trying to shove this down Americans’ throats too quickly,” Schlosser said.

Before the 2007 law, he had three production lines with 50 workers making the bulbs. But Schlosser said he is down to a single line with 15 workers and a single U.S. competitor, Sylvania. Most of the incandescent bulb business is now overseas. GE made its last incandescent bulb in the U.S. last fall.

Kit Kennedy, energy counsel with the Natural Resources Defense Council, doesn’t expect other states to follow South Carolina’s lead.

“Most states, whether they’re red states or blue states, are interested in promoting energy efficiency,” Kennedy said. “We hope that South Carolina sees the light, as it were.”

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EaTn said...

Granted, some government mandates are good for the country--the fluorescent bulb is one unless someone proves otherwise. It consumes far less energy that the regular bulb and normally has a longer life. Then there's the bad ones, eg. the tax supported ethanol mandate: requires food farmland to grow, consumes about as much energy as it saves, destroys some engines, drives up the price of groceries and has negligible affect on oil prices. Maybe the good ole boys from SC should take up this cause instead.

March 29, 2011 at 7:25 a.m.
MissHarleyQuinn said...

What was President George W. Bush thinking when he signed this bill into law on December 19, 2007? Oh, wait this is what he was thinking:

"Today we make a major step with the Energy Independence and Security Act. We make a major step toward reducing our dependence on oil, confronting global climate change, expanding the production of renewable fuels and giving future generations of our country a nation that is stronger, cleaner and more secure."

"The bill I sign today takes a significant step because it will require fuel producers to use at least 36 billion gallons of biofuel in 2022. This is nearly a fivefold increase over current levels," the president said. "It will help us diversify our energy supplies and reduce our dependence on oil."

March 29, 2011 at 8:56 a.m.
dao1980 said...

Not but just two weeks ago I overheard a heated debate in the hardware store over the newer style light bulbs.

One of the participants in this debate was demanding that "these new light bulbs just aren't as bright as the old ones" and "that they cost way too much."

Now I can agree that they do cost a little more, but I had always thought that the extended life and lowered energy consumption of each bulb had reduced overall operating cost upon installment of this new design.

I had as well noticed that they take a minute to "warm up" and produce the clean bright light that we all expect from modern light bulbs.

To hear this elderly woman frantically demand almost to the point of tears that she was being cheated out of her familiar old style of light bulb was an awkward and confusing experience to say the very least.

Now I can agree with EaTn that the ethanol mandate is as obvious a BS ploy as any ole hand shake/slap in the face runaround could be.

But as far as new technology in light bulbs goes..

Are they really that bad? Do I just not care enough to be absolutely furious about the future? Has my sight not gotten bad enough to need the sun itself installed in all of my light fixtures?

March 29, 2011 at 10:08 a.m.
holdout said...

The only draw back I have ever heard about was that they contain a significant amount of mercury. I don't know how true that is but even if true we need to be recycling as much as possible anyway and mercury would be easy to reclaim. One advantage I have not heard talked about is how robust they are. They stand up to jarring and bouncing far better than an incandescent bulb.

March 29, 2011 at 10:35 a.m.
mtngrl said...

I have not had a single incandescent bulb in my house in over 2 years, and have not suffered for it one bit, and my power bills are much lower. I cant understand why people want to fight over the old ones so bad. Yeah they can look funny, but they make ones with the old style look too. I even have recessed flood style bulbs in the kitchen and they produce plenty of light with great visibility.

The only draw-back I could see would be with my niece's Easy Bake Oven since it puts that 90% of wasted energy to use.

And the mercury content is really small. Here is some information on that: http://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/promotions/change_light/downloads/Fact_Sheet_Mercury.pdf

March 29, 2011 at 11:27 a.m.
eddieray said...

when i can find ones made in the U.S., i will start buying them.

March 29, 2011 at 12:39 p.m.
EaTn said...

MissHurleyQuinn---what Prs.Bush failed to mention is that his ethanol mandate consumes nearly as much energy (oil and natural gas included)in the production as it saves (cultivating, harvesting, transporting, distillation). Also, he failed to mention that the grain used in the process will drive up the food prices across the board--it currently consumes 40% of our corn supply when the world food demand for corn is it's highest ever. You know corn is a primary feed grain for cattle, hogs and chickens. I can go on, but hopefully you will now understand why this Bush mandate was another one of his smoke and mirrors joke.

March 29, 2011 at 1:08 p.m.
hambone said...

And the number one proponent of the incandecent bulb, Ms. Bachmann is running for president on the DIM BULB ticket!

March 29, 2011 at 2:23 p.m.
BW said...

South Carolina receives $1.35 in federal revenue for every $1.00 they pay in Federal taxes, so when they stomp their feet and yell states rights, I yawn.

One should be careful with disposing thiese light bulbs, but the amount in aggregate is far less than the mercury spewed by one coal fired power plant. Also these bulbs have significantly less mercury than the old fashioned flourescent lights.

Eventually these light bulbs will be replaced by led lights once they get cheaper.

March 29, 2011 at 2:32 p.m.
acerigger said...

I believe "DIM" is the key word in this silliness. The people who are so concerned over "government take-over" of anything should direct their attention to the attacks on our 1st and 4th amendment rights!

March 29, 2011 at 3:01 p.m.
MountainJoe said...

From my personal experience the "new" bulbs do NOT last longer than the traditional ones. But they definitely cost a lot more, and put out less light. FAIL! (As with most government mandates.) I will be buying a few cases of the incandescent bulbs before they go away for good ... hopefully enough to last the rest of my life, or until someone with a little sense repeals this idiocy.

March 29, 2011 at 11 p.m.
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