GOP Railroads Through Amendment on Light Bulbs

Either Republicans are stupid and incapable of strategic thinking (unlikely), doing anything to ensure consumers continue to waste energy to fill the coffers of energy companies (more likely), or are trying anything they can think of to get something passed they can hang their hat on in the next election (most likely). Amazingly, they just snuck in an amendment to the 2012 Energy and Water Appropriations Act (HR 2354) to extend the ban on 100W incandescent light bulbs…and it passed!

The amendment was delivered by legislator (and climate denier) Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) who has said previously, “The federal government has no right to tell me or any other citizen what type of light bulb to use at homeIt is our right to choose.” Could this mean he’s pro-choice? 

Then we have presidential hopeful Rep. Michele Bachmann and her Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act trying to “keep the government out of our houses.” Again, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that these two and their party would waste their time saving energy wasting light bulbs (especially since our country is so close to defaulting on our debt). 

For the last five years (see this post from 2006 and this one about Bachmann) I’ve been closely watching what’s going on in energy and, especially, the ONE, MOST WASTEFUL energy use WORLDWIDE: incandescent light bulbs. The US Department of Energy, the European Union energy ministers, and anyone with half-a-brain can do the 2nd grade arithmetic necessary to easily see the energy wasting nature of this lighting source.

Take a look at this chart: 

Comparison of LED vs. incandescent vs. CFLs

LEDs are phenomenal. I own two as test bulbs and the light is great, they burn cool, and they sip energy. Like other people I know interested in these bulbs, we’re waiting for them to drop in price to buy them by the dozen.

We have CFLs throughout the house…including dimmable ones. The light color, which many say is objectionable and too “blue”, is fine in our house and that objection is bullshit anyway. Once you have them installed your eyes adjust almost immediately.

This article (written in 2006!) from the Economist summed up the primary reason why we MUST get off incandescent lighting:

Worldwide about 20% of all electricity generated is used for lighting. Several studies reckon that LEDs could eventually cut that amount in half. That would not only save billions of dollars in electricity bills, but also significantly reduce energy demand, environmental pollution and greenhouse-gas emissions.

Yes, today LED bulbs are expensive. Philips, Sylvania and GE leadership has consistently projected rapidly falling costs once the governmental mandate kicks in. The projection is that costs will be on parity with CFLs within two years so that isn’t an objection (see this post).

As someone who considered himself a Republican up until the early 2000s, I am so embarrassed by the GOP and these sorts of short-sighted shenanigans I could just scream. That, coupled with their convenient “forgetting” that they ran up the deficit during the Bush years and their laissez-faire attitude to regulation let the financial industry crash the global economy, makes it unlikely I’ll ever vote Republican again. Then, after handing Obama an economic shit sandwich, which they’re now claiming is of his making, makes it all the more maddening that they’re wasting their time on trivial stuff like light bulbs. 

All of that said, almost always this stuff is a head-fake away from what’s really going on, like the GOP doing anything to preserve, protect and defend energy companies. Forget about the future. Forget about leadership. Today’s GOP is a rudderless ship going around in circles while the rest of the world is working on making the world a better place. The GOP is a joke and almost everyone I know under 70 years old thinks so too.

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  1. Pat Furness on July 16, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    Am I to assume that Marketing Directions Inc. only wants to work with Democrats?
    Otherwise a very unwise public and global pronouncement of your prejudices

  2. Steve Borsch on July 17, 2011 at 8:59 am

    Thanks Stephen.

    As any of us age, our corneas yellow and the number of photons needed to illuminate increase. It’s a big deal in one part of our business where we deal with color for products in the home furnishings industry, and the targeted demographics are key to color use, how much light is needed, what it means when the color temperature shifts when people use LEDs and CFLs, and so forth.

    Even though the “major” lighting companies have yet to fully rollout affordable, higher lumens bulbs, many of the smaller companies and startups are moving forward. Here are two:

    + Switch (and good article on their new 100W bulb here). The biggest thing is their “suggested retail price between $20- $30” as the article states.

    + EarthLED has this 100W’er

    Conversationally Philips, GE and other representatives I’ve talked with discuss the acceleration toward a lighting future supported by higher lumens, color temperatures akin to what we’re used to today with incandescent, and that this is an obvious future. I’d tend to agree, though it seems like GE is potentially going to try to leapfrog the other startup and mainstream potential LED manufacturers by embracing OLED (see this article). I think this could be pretty cool if OLED “panels”, wallpaper or other materials could emit ambient light!

    One more article of potential interest is this one about, “17 Projects Shaping the Future of LED Lights

  3. Stephen Downes on July 17, 2011 at 8:10 am

    Public and global pronouncement of your positions on things like lightbulbs make you, in my mind, more credible rather than less credible. Especially when that position is well-argued and supported with evidence (and therefore far from being a ‘prejudice’).

    My issue with the lightbulbs is brightness. I have lousy eyes, especially in the dark. 800 lumens (the old 60 watt equivalent) is not enough. I need the equivalent of 100 watts. I haven’t been finding alternative energy sources of that brightness.

    I’ve also had some reliability issues with the CFL bulbs, which have been burning out at far less than 8,000 hours. But this has been improving with time. (I have yet to have an LED light burn out so I don’t yet know how long they last – but I can say it’s a long time).

  4. Steve Borsch on July 19, 2011 at 9:16 am

    Much of this post was intentional since it mirrors the outrageous behaviors of the people toward whom I was commenting. Guess that was lost on most or why I don’t make my living as a comedy writer.

    Your comment was reasoned and cogent, but I notice that you are unwilling to place your name on the comment which, unfortunately, makes me suspect and I don’t engage with “anonymous” commenters. I see from your IP address you’re at the University of Arkansas ( so if you’re faculty or a student, let us know.

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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.