Somehow, during a time of huge challenges across so many aspects of the American landscape, our members of Congress have decided to spend their time rolling back the incremental progress this nation has made on energy efficiency. The most recent, and hilarious, target has been energy efficiency standards for light bulbs.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, (R-Minn.) began the charge when she introduced a bill to study the health risks associated with the spiral shaped energy-efficient lights that many have screwed into their houses and businesses in an effort to use less energy. Bachmann is certainly no stranger to odd stances like this one, but she has gotten a few folks on her side, who at one time were known for their reasonable approach to lawmaking in Washington, D.C.
Enter Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), who has actually one-upped Bachmann’s plan to study the bulbs by sponsoring legislation, aptly named the BULB Act (Better Use of Light Bulbs Act). Enzi’s bill would “repeal light bulb standards Congress included in the 2007 energy law that limit choice.” That’s right folks, Mike Enzi is pro-choice -- when it comes to light bulbs.
Enzi uses the Big Brother argument to defend his stance against our new bulbs, saying the government has no right to tell us what bulbs to use. The Natural Resources Defense Council says that once the 2007 energy law bill is fully enacted, it would “save homeowners $100 to $200 a year in energy costs and cut power-plant pollution by 100 million tons, the equivalent of taking 17 million cars off the road.”
That all sounds completely insane right? It’s not like we have an energy crisis on our hands these days or anything like that? Enzi apparently thinks saving some energy, reducing our dependency on foreign energy sources and even eliminating some pollution from the air, is the equivalent of Stalin regulating what crops were grown back in the 1930s and 1940s.
But like him or not, the one thing that you used to be able to say about Enzi is that he was above shameless stunts to prove his points. After all, this is the man who used to work with Sen. Ted Kennedy to get things done. When I covered him as a reporter out West, his staffers used to say he was a workhorse not a show horse.
But perhaps Enzi is feeling a little overshadowed by his fellow show horses these days. When you consider that he brought in the guy who lights the Statue of Liberty to argue his point about light bulbs, it seems that the Senate’s only accountant (Enzi) has become another one of the sideshows that make Congress so fun to watch these days.
During an Energy Committee hearing this week, Howard M. Brandston, the “Statue of Liberty Lighter,” explained, “the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 ignores the fundamentals of good lighting practice and intrudes on our ability to choose how we live.” An interesting point from the rock star of the lighting world.
Roger Pielke of the University of Colorado made another point in the light bulb debate. Pielke pointed out that Enzi and the man behind Lady Liberty’s mojo overlooked a history of government influence when it came to making smarter decisions. “Germany’s standards agency, established in 1887, was busy setting rules for everything from the content of dyes to the process for making porcelain; other European countries soon followed suit. Higher-quality products, in turn, helped the growth in Germany’s trade exceed that of the United States in the 1890s,” wrote Pielke.
The professor also pointed out that, “America finally got its act together in 1894, when Congress standardized the meaning of what are today common scientific measures, including the ohm, the volt, the watt and the henry, in line with international metrics. And, in 1901, the United States became the last major economic power to establish an agency to set technological standards.”
This is all very interesting, and underscores the fact that there isn’t much logic behind the anti-new bulb movement. There is clearly a precedent for setting standards that lead to economic progress. I don’t think it was the standards in Germany that led to two World Wars. Desperate times, arguments of fear and lack of logic led to those huge black eyes on world history. Sounds like the same type of logic coming out of Enzi and Bachmann’s mouths these days. All the more reason to keep the lights on.
Also on MNN: Stephen Colbert on the light bulb ban