Energy chief defends light bulb standards

Energy Secretary Steven Chu on Friday defended a series of light bulb efficiency standards that are coming under attack from House Republicans.

The standards, Chu said on a conference call, do not ban traditional incandescent bulbs, as many Republicans have alleged. Instead, they require that the bulbs become more energy efficient.

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“I want to take this opportunity to dispel a myth,” Chu said. “These standards do not ban incandescent bulbs.”

The standards, which were passed as part of a landmark 2007 energy law, require that incandescent bulbs be 30 percent more energy efficient beginning in 2012.

“You’re still going to be able to buy halogen incandescent bulbs,” Chu said. “They’ll look exactly like the ones you’re used to. They can dim. They cut out instantly. They look and feel the same. The only difference is they will help American consumers save money.”

Chu’s comments come just days before the House is set to vote on a Republican-backed proposal to repeal the light bulb efficiency standards. The vote is slated for Monday.

The standards, Republicans argue, will force consumers to buy more expensive LED (light-emitting diode) and CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs. LEDs and CFLs are significantly more efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs.

The 2007 light bulb efficiency standards were approved by Congress with bipartisan support and signed into law by President George W. Bush. But Republicans have targeted the standards in recent months as an example of government overreach.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) introduced legislation earlier this week to repeal the standards. The bill won the support of House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who previously supported the light bulb efficiency standards. Upton had come under intense scrutiny from conservatives for supporting the standards.

But former Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) came to the defense of the standards Friday on the conference call with Chu.

Warner argued that repealing parts of the 2007 energy law would set a bad precedent.

“If we begin now to block sections here and there, we’re going to lose momentum,” he said. “We’ll be dropping backwards in America’s need to become more energy efficient.”

Repealing the standards could spook investors who require policy certainty, Warner said.

“It’ll be a signal that we are not taking seriously our overall energy problem,” he said. “This is highly symbolic because every single American – today, tomorrow and next week – are going to be relying on the light bulb.”