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Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Gift of Light

Republicans delay a phase-out of Thomas Edison's bulbs.

Christmas is known as the season of lights, so perhaps it's fitting that Republicans did a modest service on behalf of the incandescent light bulb in the budget negotiations. An omnibus rider will delay for one year the de facto ban on the old-fashioned Edison that was part of the 2007 energy bill.
The Energy Department won't be allowed to enforce the efficiency standards that were due to take effect weeks from now and would prohibit the manufacture or import of 100-watt bulbs, and then phase out nearly all of them in later years in favor of compact fluorescents. Imagine that: Letting adults make the trade-offs among cost, efficiency and personal preferences for themselves, without Washington mediation.
The green movement claims to speak on behalf of consumers who don't know the light bulb ban is for their own good—if only they were more enlightened, as it were. But consumers aren't cooperating. Millions of Americans hate the new bulbs, the headache-inducing quality of the light, their delay, their price.
The light bulb police—not to mention the light bulb industry suddenly banned from selling cheaper products—say government must enforce innovation. But the iPhone wasn't created because the government regulated out of existence rotary phones and switchboards. Wait until Congress decides to outlaw the internal combustion engine.
The political problem is that, unfortunately, the GOP rider may have no practical consequence because the efficiency standards are still on the books. So stores like Home Depot and Ikea will have to start clearing the shelves of the old bulbs anyway. At least Democrats made a concession, and perhaps the reprieve will lead to a full repeal in a new Presidency. Meantime, stock up on the old bulbs while you still can.
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