March 10 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Senator Rand Paul’s toilets don’t work. And, he says, it’s the government’s fault.
“Frankly my toilets don’t work in my house,” Paul, a Kentucky Republican, told a top Energy Department official today at hearing on efficiency of products such as light bulbs and appliances. “I blame you and people like you who want to tell me what I can install in my house, what I can do.”
Paul directed his ire at Kathleen Hogan, deputy assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy, during a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The Energy Department has spent two years developing energy-efficiency appliance standards that may save consumers as much as $300 billion in the next 20 years, Hogan testified.
Paul and Republicans have protested efficiency mandates as limits on consumer choice. They cite a 2007 law that sets lightbulb efficiency standards, effectively phasing out the use of the familiar incandescent bulbs in favor of compact fluorescent light bulbs.
“I find it really appalling and hypocritical,” Paul told Hogan. “There should be some self-examination from the administration on the idea that you favor a woman’s right to an abortion, but you don’t favor a woman or a man’s right to choose what kind of lightbulb, what kind of dishwasher, what kind of washing machine.”
Congress is determining the government’s role in encouraging energy efficiency. The committee today considered legislation that would set standards for 14 products -- overlapping with the Energy Department’s efforts -- and a measure that would repeal parts of the 2007 law on lightbulb efficiency standards.
$43 Billion Saved
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, the New Mexico Democrat who introduced the bill for the standards in February, has said higher efficiency standards for appliances such as air conditioners, heaters, freezers and washers and dryers may save consumers $43 billion in energy costs by 2030.
Senator Mike Enzi, a Wyoming Republican and sponsor of the measure to repeal the lightbulb standards, has said the 2007 energy law will ban sales of incandescent bulbs when standards take effect on Jan. 1.
“Rather than allowing members of Congress to dictate what light bulbs must be used in every American’s home, my legislation allows the market to work,” Enzi, who isn’t on the Energy committee, said in a statement submitted to the panel.
Government, Light Bulb
“Government doesn’t need to be in the business of telling people what light bulb they have to use,” Enzi said in a Feb. 17 press release.
The Republican-led House is considering similar legislation.
Republicans have complained about the costs associated with compact fluorescent lamps, which meet the efficiency standards. Senator James Risch, an Idaho Republican, said “free people” ought to be able to decide which lightbulb to use.
Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the panel’s top Republican, said the quality of light from compact lamps is inferior to the flow from incandescent bulbs. “And, they contain mercury, which we all know is a hazard,” she said.
Manufacturers such as General Electric Co. of Fairfield, Connecticut, have started shifting production to meet the efficiency standards. The more-efficient light bulbs are changed less frequently, producing almost $6 billion in savings for consumers by 2015, Hogan said. Enzi’s bill “could cost consumers and manufacturer money and detrimentally affect the nation’s economy, energy security, and environmental perspectives,” she said in testimony.
Hogan defended the practice of energy efficiency standards, which she said was produced after bipartisan discussions.
“I really do not believe that the appliance standards end up restricting personal choice,” she told Paul.
Hogan’s comments failed to convince Paul. “You busybodies always want to do something to tell us how we can live our lives better,” he said. “Keep it to yourselves. Try to convince us through persuasion, but don’t threaten to put us in jail or put us out of business if we don’t accept your way of thinking.”
Hogan didn’t mention jail or fines at the hearing, and offered Paul some assistance: “I can help you find a toilet that works,” she said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Wingfield in Washington at Bwingfield3@bloomberg.net
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at firstname.lastname@example.org