WASHINGTON – The House Republican majority moved Friday to keep old-style incandescent light bulbs around a bit longer, voting to block enforcement of new lighting efficiency rules and setting up a high-wattage fight with the Democratic-controlled Senate.
After failing earlier in the week to repeal the new standards, the House passed a bill that would bar the Energy Department from spending money next year to enforce them.
“If a manufacturer should choose to continue to make 100-watt bulbs, they would be permitted under this language, as there is clearly a market based on the thousands of consumers who have contacted Congress upset about their inability to buy 100-watt light bulbs,” said Rep. Michael C. Burgess, R-Texas, author of the measure, which passed on a voice vote. “This is about the consumer driving the market, not the federal government deciding the market.”
But the Senate version of the energy appropriations bill will be written by a committee chaired by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., whose state has already implemented the new rules.
Thus, the humble light bulb could become another contentious issue for negotiations between the House and Senate.
Federal energy legislation signed by President George W. Bush in 2007 phases out the old incandescent bulbs over three years, starting with 100-watt bulbs Jan. 1, in favor of more-efficient lighting.
Republicans have made the light bulb rules a symbol of federal regulatory excess. Supporters say they will save energy and reduce greenhouse emissions. Consumers, they say, will still be able to buy a new model of incandescent bulbs that will cost more but save money over time because they will be more efficient.
David Jenkins, the vice president for government and political affairs for Republicans for Environmental Protection, warned that postponing the efficiency measure would hurt companies.
“If enacted into law, this … would strand millions of dollars that lighting manufacturers have invested to produce more-efficient incandescent light bulbs, cause confusion in the market and waste consumers’ money,” he said.