Why Republicans Are Fighting to Save the 30-Cent Light Bulb


"House will debate legislation to roll back energy-efficiency standards that would outlaw Thomas Edison's incandescent light bulbs."

Christian Science Monitor, Mark Clayton

<edison light bulb

Under a "Bring Back the Bulb" banner, Republicans in the House of Representatives will debate legislation on Monday to roll back energy-efficiency standards, thereby permitting Thomas Edison's original, highly inefficient incandescent light bulb to continue being sold next year.

Incandescent bulbs are certainly popular, burning in most of the 3-4 billion screw-in sockets in U.S. homes and businesses, the U.S. Department of Energy reports. But are their days numbered?

"The incandescent light bulb is not being banned, contrary to common misconceptions," says Randall Moorehead, vice president of government affairs for Philips Electronics North America.

Don’t tell that to those who have picked up the light-bulb-ban banner.

Contrary to claims frequently made by conservative talk radio, bloggers, and some news media outlets, incandescent light bulbs are not actually being "banned." Incandescent bulbs with more efficient technology will still be for sale.

The old incandescent bulb is clearly an energy hog. Just 5% of the electricity it uses lights the bulb—the rest ends up as heat.

If all homes and businesses used bulbs 35%–75% more efficient, they would collectively save almost $10 billion a year in energy costs. The switch would cut energy demand enough to eliminate the need to build dozens of coal-fired power plants, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group.

The legislative argument is shifting now more toward the jobs issue—with claims that the efficiency rules are sending jobs overseas. But that basic bulb business was already rapidly being phased out in the U.S., ceding to ever-lower-cost producers in China and elsewhere.

"Phillips is actually adding jobs in the U.S., in the area of energy-efficicent lighting," Mr. Moorehead says. "The major componenst for our EcoVantage bulb are made in New York and California."

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