Sen. Bingaman: Light bulb rider will have 'little practical consequence'

Republican attempts to block pending light bulb efficiency standards will have “little practical consequence,” Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) said Friday.

While a GOP-backed rider in the omnibus spending deal blocks funding for the implementation of certain Energy Department light bulb efficiency rules, Bingaman said it won’t stop the law from going into effect at the beginning of next year.

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“This decision may have little practical consequence on which incandescent light bulbs are available in stores because, starting Jan. 1, it will be illegal to produce or import the inefficient, wasteful bulbs in the United States,” Bingaman said in a statement.

Efficient light bulbs are coming whether Republicans like it or not, Bingaman said. He noted that light bulb manufacturers have been working for years to make their products more efficient in anticipation of complying with the rules.

“The five major bulb manufacturers have already switched to making and selling the better bulbs,” he said.

A provision in a 2007 energy law requires traditional incandescent light bulbs to be 30 percent more efficient, starting in 2012.

Conservatives like Rush Limbaugh and Republicans in Congress, including GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann, have attacked the standards in recent months, casting them as an egregious example of federal overreach

House Republicans won inclusion of the rider blocking funding for the standards in the omnibus spending bill greenlighted by House and Senate negotiators Thursday night.

Republicans often describe the standards as a “light bulb ban,” arguing that the rules would greatly restrict consumer choice by pushing out traditional incandescent bulbs in favor of more expensive, but more efficient, LED (light emitting diode) and CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs.

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Environmental and energy-efficiency groups note that the standards do not ban incandescent bulbs, but instead require them to be more efficient. While more efficient light bulbs are often more expensive at the point of sale, experts say they save consumers money on their electricity bills over the long term.

“If America is to have a rational energy policy, we need to make progress in efficiency,” Bingaman said. “Blocking funds to enforce minimum standards works against our nation getting the full benefits of energy efficiency.”