Republicans Save The Light Bulb

Congressional Republicans got a major concession as price for averting a government shutdown: saving the incandescent light bulb, at least now.

Congressional Republicans got a major concession as price for averting a government shutdown: saving the incandescent light bulb, at least now.

Politico (“Spending bill blocks light bulb standards“):

The shutdown-averting budget bill will block federal light bulb efficiency standards, giving a win to House Republicans fighting the so-called ban on incandescent light bulbs.

GOP and Democratic sources tell POLITICO the final omnibus bill includes a rider defunding the Energy Department’s standards for traditional incandescent light bulbs to be 30 percent more energy efficient.

DOE’s light bulb rules — authorized under a 2007 energy law authored signed by President George W. Bush — would start going into effect Jan. 1. The rider will prevent DOE from implementing the rules through Sept. 30. But Democrats said they could claim a “compromise” by adding language to the omnibus that requires DOE grant recipients greater than $1 million to certify they will upgrade the efficiency of their facilities by replacing any lighting to meet or exceed the 2007 energy law’s standards.

It’s a rather silly issue, especially since the phase out of inefficient bulbs was signed into law by a Republican president (albeit with a brand new Democratic Congress). But it’s one that gained tremendous salience with a public not wishing to be told what to do on something so trivial.

FILED UNDER: Environment, US Politics, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. How much is this really going to matter, though?

    My understanding is that manufacturers had already ceased production of the old-style bulbs months ago in preparation for the change, and in my visits to Lowe’s and Home Depot lately it’s been more and more difficult to find old-style bulbs in stock. It’s not like the industry is going to be able to turn on a dime and bring the “good old days” back, especially when it seems rather inevitable that the regulations will be implemented at some point in the future anyway.

    On another note, I’ve never quite understood why this became such a big issue on the right when there are so many more important issues out there.

  2. John Peabody says:

    Simple. It’s big because it is (literally) easy to grasp. Debt ceilings, foreign policy, war plans…all of these require research before they can be debated in a meaningful way. But for the pundits- aha! Light bulbs! THAT, we can understand. It is good for filling two segments of air time without any research whatsoever. Sheer repetition, over months, makes it seem like a gigantic problem.

  3. superdestroyer says:

    It is easy for the right because it fits the narrative that progressives are for sacrifice by others. The middle class is forced to purchase more expensive light bulbs and maybe redo light fixtures but progressives are still able to jet around the world, ride around in car services, and own multiple homes.

  4. john personna says:

    Rationality vs Emotion, Doug.

    Not to mention a real-world “marshmallow experiment.”

    Or put another way, it’s the pennies all over again. Doing that which is emotionally “good” even when the various costs are all higher.

  5. john personna says:


    Ah, don’t tell me you’ve never seen the math:

    If instead of using 60-watt incandescent bulbs we use 13-watt CFLs, we’ll be using 21.67% as much energy (13 watts divided by 60 watts is 0.2167). Applying this fraction to the cost of lighting, we now pay $2.75/month instead of $12.67, which saves us $9.92. Applying the other miscellaneous charges, we now pay $1.68 instead of $7.74, saving us $6.06. Using these numbers, we’re saving $15.98 per billing period.

    At this point conservatives whine that they have “special eyes” …

  6. Robert in SF says:

    This issue reminds me of the West Wing arc dealing with the re-election campaign for President Bartlett. hey were facing a candidate “of the people”…someone plain spoken, simple, and un-nuanced.

    This issue starts simple: the gubmint wants to take away my guns bulbs! Just cause they don’t believe in freedom!

    But once you get past those first 10 words (WW reference)….there’s a whole story behind that reveals that the issue is a lot more complicated than a simple declarative statement like this can sum up. Well, at least not in my level of articulation skill.

    See the economy, environmental protection, and public health as a result of pollution are just a few factors that come into play around this subject. There were supposedly scores of reasons for the mandate about bulb efficiency (and this reminds me of the President’s statement about tire-inflation and saving money…a lot of people made hay with that one!)…

    But there was no simple, sound bite way to summarize the reasons for the change, and one very simple, very easy to digest sound-bite to oppose…FREEDOM!

    As a people we have to learn that life is not as simple as may think, wish, or try to attain…it won’t happen, especially when other people and time are involved…and they always are (at least according to the Supreme Court and the Commerce clause).

    Just some rambling thoughts.

  7. Hey Norm says:

    Once again Republicans stand four-square against technological progress. The Tea Bag credo…take back the country…means back to 19th century technology. What a pathetic collection of human beings.

  8. john personna says:


    The obesity rate in grade school- aged children in New York dropped 5.5 percent between 2006 and 2010 as the city started programs to boost physical activity and encourage healthier eating habits.

    But they did it by taking away their freedoms!!!!

    City officials attributed the drop to programs that eliminated deep-fried food and sugary sodas in cafeterias, limited how often junk food can be sold for fund raisers and added low-fat milk and salad bars to school menus.

  9. Hey Norm says:

    physical activity and healthy eating…you radical!!!!

  10. Franklin says:

    Should I even waste a breath arguing about this? Mmm, already spent too much time.

  11. Ron Beasley says:

    This reminds me of the outrage when lower volume toilets were mandated.

  12. Herb says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “On another note, I’ve never quite understood why this became such a big issue on the right when there are so many more important issues out there. ”

    Because this was portrayed as a ban on incandescent bulbs, another example of Obama’s big government coming to take away your freedoms. That’s why.

  13. PD Shaw says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “My understanding is that manufacturers had already ceased production of the old-style bulbs months ago . . .”

    Plus, many of us, including me, have stockpiled some old-style bulbs (for dimmers and places that need quick lighting). So, even if the bulbs are put back on the market one could expect sales to be sluggish.

  14. john personna says:

    Modern CF are “quick.”

  15. michael reynolds says:

    I’m with the Republicans on this. (Not words I write often.)

    I’m touchy about lighting and the new bulbs — even the new, new, better than ever — are awful. Awful. They cast a hideous, cold, gloomy, depressing light. They flicker. They take five seconds to get up to full power. They won’t work worth a damn out in the cold. They don’t fit in a lot of fixtures. And their claims of longevity are bullsh-t.

  16. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    You aren’t buying the right bulbs. I”ve got good CFs in my kitchen overheads, and they are totally awesome. Dual 60-equivalents I think. Fast, beautiful.

    Go play with the kids on your lawn, old man ;-), you may end up liking it.

  17. Hey Norm says:

    @ Michael…
    I’ve got cfl’s in my house that I put in when I bought the place ten years ago.
    The newer lamps are much better, and getting better all the time.
    Having said that, there’s nothing wrong with agreeing with Republicans now and then. I just can’t think of any reasons right now.

  18. michael reynolds says:

    You’ll get the incandescent bulbs from my fixtures when you pry them from my cold, dead fingers.

    Oh, and I take the flow limiter out of my shower head, too. Ah hah hah hah!

  19. matt says:

    @PD Shaw: There are CFLs that are designed to be used with dimmers btw.. They work quite well and I suggest you check them out when your stockpile runs low.

    I’ve been using CFLs for over 5 years (some of which are still in service) and my only complaint about them is that they don’t take certain applications as well as incandescent. CFLs don’t last long if you use them in a situation where they are only turned on for short bursts at a time (bathroom, closet, garage) and end up costing more money overall as a result 🙁

    @michael reynolds: I have no idea what bulbs you’re using but that doesn’t even remotely describe the CFLs I run. I used them for years up in Illinois and while it’s true that they are a bit slow getting to full power in the cold (we’re talking sub 50f) they are otherwise perfectly fine for usage in cold climates. Frankly Halogen spotlights survived much better then any incandescent bulb did outside during the winter.

    My current lamps not only provide 90% of their light right off the bat they also provide it in almost the exact same spectrum as the incandescent that were replaced while running a lot cooler. You actually have choices now in the color temp of the lamps too btw..

  20. matt says:

    @michael reynolds: YOU REBEL!!!

    I’m tellin

  21. pcbedamned says:

    This is one of those issues that I have never understood the opposition to. Here is the Great White North, we have been using CFL’s for well over a decade (and not because we were told to, either). Here in Commie Canada you even have a choice of whether or not to use them or the old incandescent bulbs.

    Quite frankly, I use CFL’s because they Save Me $. And I have never had to worry about them not fitting into fixtures. Depending on what kind of lighting you prefer, you can purchase ‘soft’, which gives you that warm type of light, or you can purchase ‘cool’ which give you light similar to daylight (the type I prefer). They also sell them to be used in dimmers.

    Repubs are constantly complaining about wasteful spending. Does anyone else see the irony here?~?~?

    {also, too, I have always taken out the flow limiter on all my shower and sink heads……..and I fill the pool with my hose……;-}

  22. W8kwses says:

    Something so small, being told what to do. These are the most difficult issues, where to the individual the matter seems small, but times 300,000,000 people is not very small at all. Sort of like the statistics about dripping faucets amounting to thousands of gallons a year. There are times when doing the right thing is annoying.