July 15, 2011

The Great Debate: When Light Bulbs Get Political

By Donna Artusy, Cleantech Law Partners

Who knew that light bulbs could become a source of political contention. But they have become just that recently, when the GOP failed to repeal the democratic majority regarding the regulation of energy-saving standards for light bubs that is slated to come into full effect by January 2012. The democratic victory of 233-193 represents what conservatives dub governmental regulation of private industry, something that the GOP has been vehemently fighting against.

The purpose of the legislation hailed as the “BULB Act” is to reduce energy output: it will not outlaw incandescent bulbs, but set standards that require light bulbs to be made that “produce the same amount of brightness with less energy.”

Texas governor Rick Perry (R) tried to override the law that was originally signed into law by former president George W. Bush. Perry sees the law as ‘a case of federal overreach’ but the issue is not necessarily up to the states to determine. Other Texas legislators are also currently trying to loophole their way around the law.

Perry’s approach specifically would render the law inapplicable to bulbs made and used in Texas. Whether or not Perry will be able to get around the federal regulation and turn it into a state’s rights issue remains to be seen.

The many advantages of the law will be significant once they are in full effect. The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) a New York- based international environmental advocacy group, projects that the new standards will save approximately $12 billion per year, beginning in 2020.

With the debt ceiling meeting looming in the distance, any decrease in spending will help make a dent in the budget deficit.

The NRDC also sees the legislation as a means to eliminating the need of as many as 33 coalmines by 2020. This would have a considerable impact in pollution reduction, given the impact coal has had on the environment.

For now, the future of the light bulb law is hopeful, and it appears with up-and-coming LED and fluorescent bulbs, might get even brighter.





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