Support For Energy Efficient Bulbs Dims Among GOP
At home improvement stores around the country, sales of compact fluorescent and LED light bulbs have risen steadily recently.
But at a Lowe's in suburban Denver, salesman Jim Thurber says that lately, sales of incandescent bulbs are also up.
"I've had people come in and stockpile these things because they're afraid they're going to lose them," he says.
That's because they've heard about a new law that goes into effect next year that will phase out 100-watt traditional bulbs, with 60- and 25-watt bulbs following in the years after. But some Republicans opposed to such mandates want to repeal the phaseout.
The BULB bill, or Better Use of Light Bulbs Act, seeks to capitalize on a growing anti-government mood felt in some corners of the country.
Conservative talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh have been taking up the cause of late. "Most Americans resent, deeply resent, their liberties and choices being infringed upon," he said on air recently. "Let there be incandescent light and freedom — that's the American way."
But Jim Presswood, federal energy policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, says the energy behind efforts to repeal the light bulb standards is based on the "complete fallacy" that incandescent bulbs are banned.
He says people will still be able to buy incandescent bulbs after 2012. In fact, those bulbs that meet the standard are already on the shelves of many home improvement stores.
And Presswood notes that energy efficiency standards are nothing new — they've been requirements for appliances since the Reagan administration.
"Washers, refrigerators, air conditioners all throughout the household — these standards have done a great service to our country," he says.
The NRDC recently released a study showing that the light bulb mandates will translate into a $90-per-year savings in energy bills for the average household.
Lowe's salesman Thurber says he tells his customers the switch to more energy-saving bulbs will lead to more than a 30 percent cut in energy usage.
"You get a big city like Denver, and everybody switches over," he says, "it makes a big difference."
But Thurber admits the newer bulbs aren't all they're cracked up to be. They don't fit every lamp, some take a long time to warm up, and some customers even complain of getting headaches.
And then there's aesthetics.
"I think they're ugly," says customer Sherma Erhome. She says she's reluctantly buying these compact fluorescents anyway. They do save her money, despite being more expensive up front, but Erhome says she just doesn't like being told what she can and cannot buy.
"I think it takes away people's freedom of choice, and I just do not like the government mandating what I'm going to do anywhere," she adds.
The BULB bill's prospects aren't a sure thing in the House. That vote, which could come as early as Monday night, requires a two-thirds majority to pass. And even if it does, it's doubtful to win support in the Democratic-controlled Senate.