BULB act sheds light on the politics of the new Republican Party

The BULB Act was brought to the floor without going through the legislative process and without the benefit of a single hearing on the bill. This process stands in stark contrast to the original language enacting the energy efficiency light bulb standards, which went through the committee process and enjoyed the support of both Democrats and Republicans before it was signed into law by President Bush.

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While the BULB Act is ill conceived legislation that should never have seen the light of day, it does shed light on how far out of the mainstream today’s Republican Party has fallen. When the EISA bill was first introduced, it enjoyed the support of top leaders of the Republican Party. In fact, Republican leaders on the Energy & Commerce Committee actually helped draft the efficiency language. However, pressed by their extremist allies, these same leaders voted against the very language they had previously supported and helped draft. Today’s House majority is so beholden to its extremist elements that even concepts that used to be considered moderate and commonsense are now off limits.

Ironically, the EISA language the BULB Act would repeal is one of the few clean energy policies that enjoys wide support from a diverse array of stakeholders including some that are frequently at odds with one another. EISA’s light bulb standards are supported by environmentalists and conservationists, labor unions and the private sector, as well as various leading consumer groups. From what I can tell, the only thing that’s changed since the light bulb standard was adopted is that there are strident, ill-informed voices on the radical right, including Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, who have railed against the government setting regulatory standards of any kind with the exception of marriage by consenting adults and women’s reproductive rights. 

Let’s set the record straight. Fact: EISA’s provisions do not force anyone to buy a particular type of light bulb. The 2007 provision simply requires the light bulb industry to use the technology they have already developed to manufacture more energy efficient bulbs that could produce the same amount of light using 30 percent less energy. The light bulb industry supported the original provision in EISA and they are opposed to repealing that language, as H.R. 2417 would have done. Why? Because they’ve already spent three years investing and ramping up production of the more energy efficient bulbs based on the 2007 law.

Fact: EISA is not a windfall for the light bulb industry. The industry is using existing technology to develop bulbs that burn hours longer, emit the same amount of light, and cost relatively the same amount as the more traditional, energy-consuming bulbs. As the Congressional Research Service confirmed in a report (RS22822), incandescent bulbs are not banned or outlawed under EISA and there is no mandate in EISA that requires consumers to purchase any type of light bulb.

Leaders should lead, and with all of the real problems that Americans are facing, Congress should not be wasting its time or efforts trying to overturn laws that will benefit consumers and the entire nation as a whole. To attempt to repeal a law that provides the benefits of energy efficiency, conservation, and advanced technology that everyone, including the industry, knew was coming, without so much as a hearing and based solely on the reason that Congress should not set standards is ludicrous. It’s also an abrogation of leadership and does not reflect the reason we are here.