Republicans in the U.S. House adopted a provision designed to save traditional incandescent light bulbs by blocking what one lawmaker called the “energy police” from enforcing an efficiency standard.
Even if the House language approved last night survives in the Democratic-led Senate, the impact for consumers probably will be limited because manufacturers such as Royal Philips Electronics NV and General Electric Co. have revamped manufacturing to comply with the law, making bulbs that use less electricity to generate the same amount of light.
The first phase of the federal efficiency standard, which was passed in 2007 during President George W. Bush’s administration, went into effect this year. It has become a symbol of government excess to Tea Party-aligned lawmakers, who say consumers should be able to buy the bulbs they want.
“People are sick of the government treading where it just doesn’t belong,” said Representative Michael Burgess, a Texas Republican who sponsored the light-bulb amendment, which was added to a broader energy-spending bill.
Burgess’ provision was adopted last night by voice vote. A similar provision was in the spending bill covering the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, which was passed in the House in December.
“The law couldn’t be enforced,” Burgess said of his amendment in an interview. “‘We don’t need no stinkin’ badges. We’re the energy police.’”
The House today passed, 255-165, the energy-spending bill that includes the light-bulb provision.
Democrats, environmental groups and lighting manufacturers such as Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE support the efficiency law.
Blocking the Energy Department from enforcement might let unscrupulous foreign manufacturers push non-compliant products, including to bulk buyers such as builders. Those sales are difficult to track.
“Some in Congress are willing to put U.S. jobs at risk for political positioning,” said Joseph Higbee, a spokesman for the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, a Rosslyn, Virginia-based group. “This is an example of a few politicizing light bulbs at the risk of American workers and the economy.”
Companies have retooled plants to make compact fluorescent lights, light-emitting diodes and a halogen version of the pear-shaped incandescent product that meets the efficiency standard. Some of the more efficient bulbs are made in the U.S.
Burgess said consumers should be able to choose for themselves which bulbs they want to buy.
“I’m smart enough to make my own decisions about the purchase of energy, and the government should not feel the need to do that for me,” he said.
The underlying bill would spend $32.1 billion on energy and water-development programs, about $965 million less than what President Barack Obama requested, according to the House Appropriations Committee. It would put more money into fossil-fuel programs than Obama’s budget.
The president’s advisers said May 31 they would recommend the president veto the bill because of cuts to efficiency and clean-energy programs, including to the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy that funds innovative technologies, and language intended to keep Yucca Mountain in Nevada viable as a repository for the nation’s nuclear waste.
The House spending bill is H.R. 5325.