Review & Outlook WSJ.com 6/7/11
Americans deserve their choice of illumination
On January 1, 2012, seven months from this week, Washington will effectively ban the sale of conventional 100 watt incandescent light bulbs that Americans have used nearly since the days of Thomas Edison. Instead we will all be required to buy compact fluorescent lights, or CFLs. We'd like to believe that when the government decrees what kind of light bulbs you can screw into the lamp in your own bedroom, even liberals would be nervous about the nanny state.
Yet Republicans have so far shown little interest in voting on the "Bulb Act" cosponsored by Republicans Mike Enzi of Wyoming in the Senate and Joe Barton of Texas in the House. This would repeal the 2007 law, signed in one of his all-too typical late-term decisions by George W. Bush, that turns incandescent bulbs into contraband. The ban passed at the height of the global warming fad-scare when all proper thinkers were supposed to sacrifice to the anticarbon gods.
The greens and the Obama Administration assert that the new light bulbs are good for the lumpen bourgeoisie because they will cut electricity use and save the average household $50 a year. Mr. Obama's Energy Department told Congress recently that to repeal the ban would "detrimentally affect the nation's economy, energy security, and environmental imperatives." Yes, and cause the seas to rise to swamp Miami and New York too.
This is maddening to millions of Americans who like incandescent bulbs. Some families are engaging in civil disobedience by stockpiling years of bulb supplies in their basements. Many find the fluorescent lights depressing because they are not as bright or complain that they can induce headaches. Sometimes the new bulbs don't fit into the ceiling or look good in chandelier fixtures, and they cost more at the store, though they last much longer.
Fluorescent lights also carry their own environmental risks because they contain small amounts of mercury and other toxic materials. The EPA website contains three pages of consumer directions about what to do if you break a CFL bulb in your home: "Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more. Shut off the central heating and air conditioning system. Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar with a metal lid.''
Congressman Ted Poe of Texas has poked fun at these EPA guidelines by holding up a fluorescent bulb on the House floor asking: "If I dropped this, would we all have to evacuate the Capitol?" If fluorescent bulbs weren't all the rage among greens, the Consumer Product Safety Commission might ban them as a home health hazard. The question an (allegedly) free society should ask is if CFL bulbs are so clearly superior, why does the government have to force people to buy them?
In classic doublespeak, the Department of Energy explains that outlawing incandescent bulbs will "empower consumers with lighting choices." Unless your choice is to buy the light bulb the government doesn't like. If Republicans can't understand the appeal of sparing Americans from the light bulb police, what are they good for?
see also Ban Bulb Lunacy