The Public Supports Light Bulb Standards--It's Time Congress Listened

The public strongly supports energy efficiency standards for light bulbs that were passed with bipartisan support in Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2007 and went into effect this year. As poll after poll shows, and many homeowners and businesses have reported, Americans like the standards and are already using better-performing, more energy-efficient light bulbs.  So why are some in Congress still trying to turn out the lights on these standards?

Yesterday, House Republicans passed two dim amendments to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 energy and water appropriations bill to undermine these standards.  The first, sponsored by Rep. Burgess (R-TX), prevents the Department of Energy (DOE) from using any funds to enforce the standards.   The U.S. lighting industry and business, consumer, environmental, and other groups solidly oppose the amendment.  The second, sponsored by Rep. Cravaack (R-MN), blocks DOE from requiring its grant recipients to upgrade any lighting that does not meet or exceed the standards.   

These amendments are based on the flawed assumption that new efficiency standards mean that incandescent bulbs are banned.  This rabble rousing accusation is popular among those looking to obfuscate the facts for political gain, but the truth is that incandescent bulbs are not banned--they are just getting better.  Already, U.S. lighting companies like GE, Philips and Sylvania are producing new incandescents that meet these standards.  Consumers will also have the option to buy CFLs and LEDs that provide even greater savings. 

Not only will the standards help the average family save approximately $100 a year on their electric bill, but they are also supporting our nation’s growing energy-efficient lighting industry and creating thousands of jobs across the country.  There are currently 14,000 workers employed in the energy-efficient lighting industry, according to the Brookings Institution, and companies such as GE Lighting and TCP in Ohio, Osram Sylvania in Pennsylvania, Cree in North Carolina and Philips Lighting in New York and other states are developing and manufacturing energy-efficient bulbs.   Our air quality will also improve with our light bulbs, because when our light bulbs use less electricity, our power plants produce less pollution.  When fully implemented, the standards will achieve energy savings equivalent to 30 large power plants.

It’s worrisome enough that House Republicans would risk hurting U.S. manufacturers and put thousands of jobs in jeopardy at a time when our country needs them most.  What’s even more troubling though is that their actions are completely out of step with the majority of Americans.

Consider these polls from the last year:

A USA Today national poll from February 2011 shows that consumers are increasingly buying the energy-savings bulbs and that 84 percent of those surveyed were very satisfied or satisfied with the new bulbs.  In addition, there was strong consumer support for the federal lighting standards that will bring them better and more energy-efficient lighting choices.  A majority of consumers, 61 percent, support the light bulb efficiency standards that were passed as part of the 2007 energy bill.

Approval of Law to Set Light Bulb Efficiency Standards

 

 

 As you may know, in 2007, Congress passed a law to set higher energy standards for light bulbs.  This means standard light bulbs , or incandescent light bulbs, will be phased out in the next three years.  Do you think this is a good law or a bad law? [Gallup Poll, conducted February 15-16, 2011, n=1,016 adults]

EcoOpinion released a consumer survey in March 2011 that showed a majority of consumers have already adopted and are satisfied with energy efficient lighting.  The survey found that:

  • A majority of Americans have installed some type of energy efficient lighting in their homes.  Two-thirds of Americans have installed CFLS in their home over the past year, and 27 percent they have installed some sort of LED fixture in their home.
  • Consumers are very satisfied with more energy efficient lighting options.  Two-thirds of respondents gave CFL bulbs strong ratings and over half of Americans gave the highest ratings to LEDs.
  • Two-thirds of Americans think that it is a good idea to phase out the traditional incandescent light bulb and transition to more energy efficient lighting.

Consumers Union and NRDC conducted four state polls in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Maine with Public Policy Polling in September 2011.  The polls again show that a majority of consumers have installed more energy-efficient appliances and products, including more energy-efficient lighting, and strongly support energy efficiency standards for light bulbs. 

Consumers are installing energy efficient appliances and products

The polls also show  that energy efficiency standards for light bulbs also receive strong support—69 percent in Illinois, 64 percent in Michigan, 60 percent in Ohio and 66 percent in Maine.

The public supports efficiency standards for light bulbs.

 

  • Voters strongly support setting minimum energy efficiency standards in general for various household products that save consumers money and provide better-performing options.  Energy efficiency standards generally are supported by 68 percent of voters in Illinois, 62 percent in Michigan, 61 percent in Ohio, and 67 percent in Maine.  

Voters strongly support minimum energy efficiency standards

 

  • There’s also strong bipartisan support across all four states for energy efficiency standards.  In Illinois, 85 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of independents, and 69 percent of Republicans; in Ohio, 80 percent of Democrats, 73 percent of independents, 68 percent of Republicans; and in Maine 86 percent of Democrats, 78 percent of independents, and 64 percent of Republicans.

Support for energy efficiency standards is bipartisan.

 

There’s good reason that voters resoundingly support these standards and more energy-efficient light bulbs—the consumer savings, the innovations and options in lighting, more U.S. jobs and less pollution. 

Our members of Congress should be standing up to preserve these consumer benefits and protect our U.S. lighting industry and the jobs it supports—not risking them to score political points.  The U.S. Senate still has the opportunity to do the right thing and stop this nonsense from continuing any further.

About the Authors

Christina Angelides

Director, City Energy Project and Senior Advocate, Urban Solutions

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