It would appear that the Republican-led crusade to keep incandescent light bulbs stocked on store shelves isn't quite over yet.

As outlined in a rider attached to the massive, $1.1 trillion spending bill passed last week by the House of Representatives, the Department of Energy would be effectively stripped of its powers to enforce or implement the federal lighting standards that were signed into law in 2007 by President George W. Bush and have seen 100-watt, 75-watt, and, most recently, 60-watt and 40-watt incandescent light bulbs be gradually phased-out, but not banned outright as is commonly thought. (Incandescent light bulbs can still be manufactured and sold, but they must consume 25 percent less energy than their more wasteful predecessors while incandescent specialty bulbs are still very much sold as normal).

Without the cash flow to enforce these regulations, the Department of Energy now has its hands tied, and manufacturers can go back to producing and marketing traditional incandescent bulbs.

But it’s not like they want to.

For years now, major lighting companies such as GE, Philips and Sylvania have been throwing all of their resources into making incandescent alternatives such as CFLs, LEDs, and halogen bulbs cheaper, better, and more efficient. Given that they didn’t get pulled into the federally mandated light bulb efficiency standards kicking and screaming — they wanted them and were gung-ho to start innovating — it’s pretty much certain that they won’t backtrack. And why should they?

However, as reported by the Washington Post, the provision in the bill that cites a "continued public desire for these products" would create a loophole for those looking to import traditional incandescent bulbs given that the DOE would be rendered powerless if they were to magically appear on store shelves. But truth be told, it’s highly doubtful that home improvement emporiums such as Home Depot would want to sell these contraband bulbs once their existing cache of incandescents disappear for good from store shelves.

Reads the Washington Post:

But some stores could, in theory, try to sell the older incandescents if they can get their hands on them. Opponents of the enforcement provision have worried that foreign companies will do exactly that. ‘Given that American manufacturers have committed to following the law regardless of whether or not it is enforced," said Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) last year, the only benefit of this ill-informed rider is to allow foreign manufacturers — who may not feel a similar obligation — to import noncompliant light bulbs that will not only harm the investments made by U.S. companies, but place at risk the U.S. manufacturing jobs associated with making compliant bulbs.’
Some Republicans, most notably Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), have long made repealing the light bulb efficiency standards a pet project due to the nanny-ish implications. As author of the amendment to bar funding of lighting efficiency standards, the equally as overzealous and — and some might say misinformed — Rep. Mike Burgess (R-Texas) has picked up where the outgoing Bachmann left off in the pro-choice light bulb movement. You know the story — replacing cheap and wasteful light bulbs that waste 90 percent of their energy by producing heat with more expensive, newfangled models is an outrageous affront to personal freedom; we can do what we want with our own sockets in the privacy of our own homes, to hell with the new, etc.

On the consumer side, some folks don’t like spending a few extra bucks on a bulb that will last for decades and help them save big on energy bills simply because the government decided that it is what’s best for everyone. Some simply miss the warm glow of old-school incandescents and have taken to hoarding. Some view the bulbs as liberal propaganda. Some consumers don’t know what in the world is going on.

Do you think the enforcement ban will make any sort of real-life difference? Do you view it more as a symbolic — and desperate — temper tantrum over what, for an increasing amount of forward-thinking Americans, is a non-issue? Or do you view the ban as a "glimmer of hope," a "desperately needed lifeline" for the traditional incandescent as Fox News puts it?

Via [Washington Post]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

War on light bulb efficiency rages on with GOP-backed rider
Just when you thought energy-efficient light bulb uprisings were a thing of the past, the DOE is now powerless when it comes to enforcing efficiency standards.