For the second year in a row, the US House of Representatives has voted to yank funding for the Department of Energy's enforcement of light bulb energy standards.
The bipartisan Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 established, among other energy goals, efficiency standards for light bulbs manufactured in or imported into the US. It was signed into law by President George W. Bush in December 2007. EISA called for the phasing out of light bulbs that don't meet the efficiency mandates between 2012 and 2014, with a second phase of restrictions (bulbs to be 60 percent to 70 percent more efficient than incandescents) kicking in by 2020. Here is an infographic summary of the act's provisions. At the time EISA was passed, incandescent bulbs were not able to meet the mandated 2012 efficiency levels; CFLs and LEDs did meet them.
The 2007 law succeeded in re-invigorating the sleepy lighting industry in the US Investment money began flowing to LED startups, and large industry players such as Philips, GE, and Osram Sylvania positioned themselves for a phase-out of most incandescent bulbs (some more successfully than others).
In January 2011, a year before 100-Watt incandescent bulbs were due to begin disappearing from store shelves, conservative Republicans led by Michele Bachmann began kicking up a fuss, positioning the law as the government telling Americans which light bulbs to buy. (Some might view the move as a crass hijacking of people's unhappiness with the performance of CFLs.) At the time, Polifact rated her claims as "mostly false."
Picking up the baton from the party's most conservative members, House Republicans in 2011 pushed to roll back the light bulb provisions of EISA. They did so over the strong objections of the lighting industry, which had just spent four years and millions of dollars retooling factories to prepare for the energy environment that the law mandated. By December 2011, the House had passed and the Senate had not removed a rider to a comprehensive government funding bill; it forbade the Department of Energy from spending money enforcing EISA's light bulb provisions.
At the time, a spokesman for the American Lighting Association said, "The industry has moved on," and stressed that the only likely effect of the Congressional action would be to allow into the country non-compliant cheap imports that would undercut American-made products designed to meet the energy-saving goals.
The prohibition against DoE enforcement lifted in September 2012. Now the same Congressman has introduced the same rider to the same funding bill for a second year in a row. It has passed on a voice vote.
Our own Ron Lenk has argued that the "ban" on incandescents (as the right wing tries to position it; it's not really a ban, of course) is not even necessary, now that LEDs have improved in efficiency -- and especially in price -- to the point that their economics are compelling without government intervention.
Personally, I think that for the benefit of the lighting industry we should work to get this year's DoE spending prohibition killed in the Senate. What do you think?
— Keith Dawson , Editor-in-Chief, All LED Lighting