Reps. Joe Barton, Marsha Blackburn and Michael Burgess have introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives entitled the “Better Use of Light Bulbs Act,” or BULB. It seeks to amend the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 so as to repeal the portion banning nearly all use of the incandescent light bulb by 2014.
The ban itself was intended to save on electricity costs and limit pollution one light fixture at a time, replacing traditional incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient compact florescent light bulbs (CFLs). To this end, CFLs have failed in their original purpose: their much touted electricity sipping qualities have resulted in buyers leaving them turned on far longer, often draining more energy than they saved. Who would have ever thought that the federal government’s interference with an everyday household item could backfire?
As might be imagined when the federal government bans something as commonly used as a light bulb, there are also severe economic ramifications. With more and more manufacturing plants shut down due to the ban, many Americans have found themselves out of work. As of this writing, the last major manufacturing plant for incandescent light bulbs in the U.S. is closing. Located in Winchester, Virginia, the GE plant provided jobs for hundreds, jobs that are being eliminated due to the ban. Their work is now being shipped overseas to places like China, where production of CFLs is much cheaper.
The switch from incandescent bulbs to CFLs has been dogged by a variety of other problems, as well. Consumers have noted the extensive time CFLs’ need to “warm up” with each use, and that they can’t be turned on and off with the same frequency before dying as their venerable predecessors. In addition, CFLs contain dangerous levels of mercury, and thus need to be disposed of in a careful manner; if one of them breaks, the EPA recommends a thorough cleaning process, including the trashing of any fabrics to come in contact with the bulb’s contents. Say what you will about Edison’s original brainchild, but at least it didn’t put a health hazard in every room of the house.
Fortunately, BULB could change all of this, if it gets the votes. Here’s hoping that congress knows how sick and tired Americans’ are of having their light fixtures dictated for them. Otherwise, the lights will continue to dim for a once bright industry.