With the rest of the country focused on whether Congress and the president can reach a budget agreement and keep the economy from plunging off a cliff, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, and others in the House are instead zeroing in on an invasive federal effort to ban incandescent light bulbs. It is a rousing defense of individual liberty, free markets, personal responsibility and freedom of choice.
Except, no such ban exists. This is entirely a manufactured controversy. Its sole purpose seems to be to give Barton and friends something to rant about.
In furtherance of that, Barton introduced a bill, H.R. 2417, called The Better Use of Light Bulbs Act The BULB Act, of course to repeal efficiency standards the congressman says will ban incandescent light bulbs.
He worries the standards will force all Americans to replace their familiar old bulbs with those curly fluorescent bulbs.
The light bulb ban is being portrayed as yet another big-government intrusion into Americans private lives, typical of the Obama administration.
The problem with that is the efficiency standards were enacted as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. That bill was passed with bipartisan support and signed into law by President George W. Bush. And it does not ban incandescent bulbs neither explicitly, nor in effect.
What the law does do is mandate that light bulbs be 30 percent more efficient in 2012 and increases efficiency standards through 2020. In that it is somewhat akin to the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards that automakers have to meet.
The standards are intended simply to help reduce energy use with the goal of cutting pollution and Americas independence on foreign oil. Nobody thinks the efficiency standards will in themselves accomplish either aim, but every improvement helps.
David Jenkins of Republicans for Environmental Protection, says the real basis for this flap was an in-party fight over who would be chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee between Barton and Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich. Whatever the case, it is not about a ban.
That did not stop Rep. Michelle Bachman, R-Minn., from jumping on board. She introduced her own bill to block the ban. All that proved too much for Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md. (Democrats have apparently stayed out of this.) He circulated a dear colleague letter that said, There is NO BAN or incandescent light bulbs to repeal.
The House went with Bartons BULB Act, which was defeated Friday.
Improving the efficiency of light bulbs can save energy. By lasting longer and reducing electric bills, they can save money for consumers. Improving efficiency with industry cooperation is not tyranny. And the House of Representatives has better things to do. There is enough wrong in Washington without making things up.