The House's Surprise Attack on Energy Efficiency - Why is Rep. Upton Trying to Screw Up His Own Light Bulb Efficiency Standards?

As the trade press has reported, the House is planning to hold a vote on Monday evening July 11th on the BULB Act (H.R. 91, H.R. 2417) or a similar bill to repeal lighting efficiency standards that are strongly supported by consumer groups, manufacturers and efficiency advocates. These standards will save consumers about $100 per household annually, or about $12 billion nationally, when fully implemented and will also avoid the need to build 30 large power plants. And these standards are helping to create thousands of new American jobs. Incredibly, the newest version of the BULB Act (H.R. 2417) would not only repeal the national lighting efficiency standards, but also deprive the states like California of their right to set state lighting efficiency standards.

The House majority leadership plans this sneak attack on energy efficiency without ever having held a hearing on this issue or even having held a committee mark-up. They haven’t even produced the exact bill yet or formally announced the vote. Clearly, they’re trying to dodge regular process and avoid scrutiny of this last minute attack on energy efficiency.

And, in a major flip-flop, Rep. Fred Upton (R. Michigan), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee – who wrote and championed the light bulb efficiency standards is now seeking to repeal his own legislation. The standards, by the way, were signed into law by President George W. Bush with strong bipartisan support.

Supporters of the repeal falsely claim that lighting efficiency standards will ban incandescent light bulbs. But as Rep. Upton knows well, this is claim is simply untrue. Indeed, it’s a whopper. Advanced incandescent bulbs that meet the new efficiency standards – but look and provide light just the same as old-fashioned light bulbs -- are on the market already, and, unlike the old-fashioned bulbs, many of them are made right here in the United States. These new bulbs work just like the 125-year-old Edison bulb—they just do it with about 30 percent less energy.

energyad.gifAs consumer groups, manufacturers and efficiency advocates say in our new ad, incandescent light bulbs aren’t being banned – they’re just getting better.

Want proof? Just go to Home Depot, Lowe’s or your local hardware store and look for the following brands of efficient halogen incandescent light bulbs made by Philips, GE or Osram Sylvania:

 efficient halogen incandescent light bulbs made by Philips, GE and Osram Sylvania

So the BULB Act and other efforts to repeal lighting efficiency standards are based, quite simply, on a lie – the false claim that incandescent bulbs will be banned. If the lighting efficiency standards are allowed to go forward, American consumers will continue to be able to buy and use efficient incandescent bulbs like the brands above, and will also be able to choose CFL and LED bulbs if they so choose.

Why does this falsehood matter? As noted above, repealing the lighting efficiency standards will increase energy bills for American households. A repeal would also result in increased energy demand and the need to build more power plants, complete with added air and water pollution. What’s more, the repeal could cost Americans jobs. That’s because the new lighting efficiency standards that House leadership is seeking to repeal have already sparked investment in American jobs. The new standards are already prompting manufacturers to build new U.S. plants and create new U.S. jobs making more energy efficient lighting technologies. Cree, a LED lighting company based in North Carolina that President Obama recently visited, is one example.

Nationally, more than 2,000 jobs have already been created at new lighting factories. TCP, a bulb maker that traditionally has done all of its manufacturing in China, plans to open its first U.S. plant, in Ohio, where it will make new CFL bulbs. When’s the last time you heard of something like that happening?

How many members of Congress does it take to screw up lighting efficiency standards, harming consumers and costing Americans jobs? Let’s hope that there are not enough to pass a repeal of energy efficiency standards in a last-minute attack based on a lie. Rather than cowering and working to reverse his own legislation, Fred Upton needs to find the courage to stand up to his Tea Party colleagues and speak the truth about lighting efficiency.

About the Authors

Kit Kennedy

Director, Energy & Transportation program

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