By Todd H. Cunningham | ECT Staff Writer
Congress has hit the “off” switch, at least temporarily, on the enforcement of light bulb efficiency standards that opponents characterized as an effective ban on traditional incandescent models.
Enforcement of the standards, which would hike efficiency requirements by 30 percent, effective Jan. 1, was blocked by a provision inserted into an omnibus spending bill that will keep the federal government funded through the remainder of fiscal 2012.
The provision bars the Department of Energy from spending funds to implement or enforce the light bulb standards, enacted in 2007, through Sept. 30. Congress passed it in mid-December as part of a more than $1 trillion appropriations bill.
While they won’t be enforced, the standards will become applicable to 100-watt bulbs in 2012 and other sizes in the following years. They will apply to all bulbs—compact fluorescents, halogen incandescents and LEDs as well as traditional incandescent models.
During floor debate on standards-repeal legislation last summer, conservative lawmakers denounced the efficiency regime as an example of government overreach. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, said his repeal bill, H.R. 2417, would “allow people to keep using the cheap and reliable incandescent light bulb.”
“People don’t want Congress dictating what light fixtures they can use,” Barton had said in comments on earlier legislation.
Meanwhile, standards supporters such as Energy Secretary Steven Chu countered that they were focused on making bulbs more efficient, not barring their use. The “common sense” requirements would save consumers $6 billion annually on their electric bills, the secretary emphasized.
NRECA has never taken a position on the continuing availability of incandescent light bulbs, according to Brian Cavey, vice president for legislative affairs.
However, he noted, the association has taken a position on energy efficiency, supporting more efficient energy alternatives in order to avoid having to build expensive new power plants.
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