Posts Tagged ‘Light Bulbs’
That agreement is tucked inside the massive 1,200-page spending bill that funds the government through the rest of this fiscal year, and which both houses of Congress will vote on Friday. Mr. Obama is expected to sign the bill, which heads off a looming government shutdown.
Congressional Republicans dropped almost all of the policy restrictions they tried to attach to the bill, but won inclusion of the light bulb provision, which prevents the Obama administration from carrying through a 2007 law that would have set energy efficiency standards that effectively made the traditional light bulb obsolete.
Stopping the bulb ban was a chief GOP priority coming into this year, with all of the candidates seeking to become chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee saying they would push through a repeal. That bill cleared the House but Democrats blocked its consideration in theSenate.
House Republicans then insisted on adding a provision into the year-end spending bill, and it was one of the last major sticking-points in the negotiations.
The spending bill doesn’t actually amend the 2007 law, but does prohibit the administration from spending any money to carry out the light bulb standards — which amounts to at least a temporary reprieve.
The spending bill is full of similar provisions that are included year after year to restrict what administrations can do.
At $915 billion in discretionary spending, the bill amounts to $750.6 million per page, and funds the vast majority of government operations, from defense to homeland security to federal parks. Since it is a must-pass bill, it also becomes a major battleground for policy fights such as the light bulbs.
Among the other policy riders attached to the bill is a requirement that all new federal employees be run through E-Verify, the voluntary government system for checking to see if employees are authorized to work in the U.S.; restrictions on the administration transferring suspected terrorist detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the U.S.; and a ban on the District of Columbia using government money to pay for abortions.
The GOP tried but failed to attach restrictions on the Obama administration’s nuclear waste policy, its international family planning policy and major restrictions on the president’s environmental agenda. Mr. Obama and Democrats also forced Republicans to remove provisions that would have prevented him from requiring government contractors to disclose their political contributions — though they cannot be required to disclose them as part of an application for a loan or grant.
“These contentious policy riders had no place in our annual appropriations bills, and it was encouraging that we were able to remove nearly all of them from the final version of this bill,” said Rep. Norm Dicks, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.
State lawmakers have passed a bill that allows Texans to skirt federal efforts to promote more efficient light bulbs, which ultimately pushes the swirled, compact fluorescent bulbs over the 100-watt incandescent bulbs many grew up with.
The measure, sent to Gov. Rick Perry for consideration, lets any incandescent light bulb manufactured in Texas – and sold in that state – avoid the authority of the federal government or the repeal of the 2007 energy independence act that starts phasing out some incandescent light bulbs next year.
“Let there be light,” state Rep. George Lavender, R-Texarkana, wrote on Facebook after the bill passed. “It will allow the continued manufacture and sale of incandescent light bulbs in Texas, even after the federal ban goes into effect… It’s a good day for Texas.”
The Natural Resources Defense Council, a New York-based environmental group, is calling on Perry to veto the bill.
“The Texas legislation is designed to showcase the state’s independence,” said Bob Keefe, senior press secretary with the council. “But what it really shows off is how some politicians in the Lone Star State will do anything to score political points – even if it means echoing misinformation and wasting time and money passing legislation that can’t practically be implemented and isn’t in the best interest of constituents.”
Perry has until Sunday to veto bills, sign them into law or let them become law without his signature.
Lavender has described his House Bill 2510 as a common-sense bill.
“The ‘new and improved’ compact fluorescent light bulbs don’t work as promised, are significantly more expensive as are the LEDs and have environmental and disposal problems due to the mercury they contain,” according to a statement from his office.
The goal of the bill is to make incandescent light bulbs manufactured in Texas – that are sold in Texas and don’t leave the state – not subject to federal law or federal rules. Such a bulb would have to have “Made in Texas” clearly imprinted somewhere on it. There are no estimates of how many incandescent light bulbs are manufactured in Texas.
If the bill becomes law, it would go into effect Jan. 1 and would apply to light bulbs made from that day forward.
U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, is trying to repeal the 2007 energy independence act passed by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush.
The federal act doesn’t ban incandescent light bulbs, but it creates new standards for them, such as requiring 100-watt bulbs to be 25 percent more efficient. After that, similar changes will go into effect for 75-, 60- and 40-watt bulbs. The goal is to make the bulbs more energy efficient because much of the traditional bulbs’ energy leaves the bulb as heat rather than as light.
The act requires the changes or essentially removes incandescent light bulbs from the market by 2014, leaving consumers to mostly use fluorescent bulbs, which some say are more energy efficient and others say are just more expensive.
“People don’t want the government dictating the lighting they can use,” Barton said. “Traditional incandescent bulbs have been brightening the night since Thomas Edison created the first one in 1879. They are safe, cheap and reliable.”
The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee may soon hold a hearing on energy efficiency and could include Barton’s BULB act.
“I am happy that the state Legislature voted to keep incandescent lights on in Texas, but the state wouldn’t have to get involved if the federal government would just butt out,” Barton said.
For some, the Texas bill represents this state’s efforts to claim sovereignty from the federal government, proving that Texas has the right to regulate some commercial activities conducted only in this state.
“Telling Texans what types of light bulbs they can manufacture, sell, purchase and use is not the proper role of the federal government,” said Janise Cookston, a spokeswoman for the Wharton-based nonprofit group “We Texans,” which works to protect “private property, personal and economic liberty” as well as constitutional government.
“This bill sends the message to Washington that Texas will no longer sit idly by and take unconstitutional intrusion into our lives.”
Some say they worry about fluorescent bulbs because they contain mercury, a toxic metal linked to birth defects and behavioral disorders. Estimates show the average bulb has 4 to 5 milligrams of mercury, enough to cover the tip of a ballpoint pin. No mercury is emitted while the bulbs are in use, but vapors can escape if a bulb breaks.
Supporters also say fluorescent bulbs can cost more than $3 each; incandescent bulbs can cost as little as 35 cents each.
Opponents say the health risks of the mercury are minimal. And they say the bill violates the constitutional clause that states the federal law is the “supreme law of the land.”
They say the state can’t prevent a light bulb from being taken across a state line, which would make it subject to interstate commerce rules and federal regulation. They also say incandescent bulbs are archaic and have been replaced by fluorescent bulbs that last longer, are more environmentally friendly and don’t create the same fire hazards incandescent bulbs do.
“Nobody is forcing anybody to use only compact florescent bulbs,” said Keefe, of the NRDC. “Several manufacturers are already making incandescent bulbs that have the same lighting quality as old-school incandescents that we all know and use. It’s just that newer, more efficient versions use 25-30 percent less energy – saving the average Texas household an estimated $100 per year and reducing overall Texas energy bills by more than $900 million.”
Officials with Osram Sylvania, a popular producer of incandescent light bulbs, declined to comment on Texas’ bill. But the company noted that it has developed a more efficient incandescent bulb called the Sylvania SuperSaver that will meet the new federal requirements.
GE, meanwhile, is moving forward to fill the demand for fluorescent bulbs.
Officials there say demand for traditional incandescent bulbs has declined and consumers have switched to more efficient lighting.
“As policymakers consider changes to current legislation, we hope they keep in mind that repeal of national standards would result in states establishing their own standards,” said Kim Freeman, a spokeswoman for GE Appliances & Lighting. “That could create a patchwork of inconsistent standards across the nation that would mean increased manufacturing and distribution costs, higher prices for consumers and lost sales for retailers.”
(c) 2011, Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
Madigan makes a product that will soon be illegal to sell in the U.S. – a regular incandescent bulb. Two years ago, his employer, GE, lobbied in favor of the law that will outlaw the bulbs.
Madigan’s colleagues, waiting for their evening shift to begin, all know that GE is replacing the incandescents for now with compact fluorescents bulbs, which GE manufactures in China.
Last month, GE announced it will close the Winchester Bulb Plant 80 miles west of D.C. As a result, 200 men and women will lose their jobs. GE is also shuttering incandescent factories in Ohio and Kentucky, axing another 200 jobs.
So, GE gets environmentalist brownie points for selling “clean” light bulbs, and they also get to charge more for their bulbs. But there’s another advantage—they save on labor with fluorescents, because they make the fluorescents in China.
Not only are wages lower there, but so are the regulatory burdens, both environmental and labor. The Times of London recently reported, “Large numbers of Chinese workers have been poisoned by mercury, which forms part of the compact fluorescent lightbulbs.”
- by Scott Baker
Two leading makers of lighting products are showcasing LED bulbs that are bright enough to replace energy-guzzling 100-watt light bulbs set to disappear from stores in January.
Their demonstrations at the LightFair trade show in Philadelphia this week mean that brighter LED bulbs will likely go on sale next year, but after a government ban takes effect.
The new bulbs will also be expensive — about $50 each — so the development may not prevent consumers from hoarding traditional bulbs.
The technology in traditional “incandescent” bulbs is more than a century old. Such bulbs waste most of the electricity that feeds them, turning it into heat. The 100-watt bulb, in particular, produces so much heat that it‘s used in Hasbro’s Easy-Bake Oven.
To encourage energy efficiency, Congress passed a law in 2007 mandating that bulbs producing 100 watts worth of light meet certain efficiency goals, starting in 2012. Conventional light bulbs don’t meet those goals, so the law will prohibit making or importing them. The same rule will start apply to remaining bulbs 40 watts and above in 2014. Since January, California has already banned stores from restocking 100-watt incandescent bulbs.
Creating good alternatives to the light bulb has been more difficult than expected, especially for the very bright 100-watt bulbs. Part of the problem is that these new bulbs have to fit into lamps and ceiling fixtures designed for older technology.
Compact fluorescents are the most obvious replacement, but they have drawbacks. They contain a small amount of toxic mercury vapor, which is released if they break or are improperly thrown away. They last longer than traditional bulbs but not as long as LEDs. Brighter models are bulky and may not fit in existing fixtures.
Another new lighting technology, organic light-emitting diodes, or OLEDs, has had problems reaching mass production. OLEDs are glowing sheets or tiles, rather than pinprick light sources, as LEDs are. They’re used as vibrant color screens for smartphones, particularly from Samsung Electronics Co.
But making OLEDs that are big, bright, cheap and long-lasting enough for use as light sources has proved difficult, in part because they use chemicals that are sensitive to oxygen and spoil unless sealed very carefully.
Acuity Brands Inc., an Atlanta-based maker of light fixtures, will be showing some OLED panels at the show. They will go on sale next year, but the price will likely make them technology showpieces rather than candidates for everyday lighting.
LEDs are efficient, durable and produced in great quantities, but they’re still expensive. An LED bulb can contain a dozen light-emitting diodes, or tiny semiconductor chips, which cost about $1 each.
The big problem with LEDs is that although they don’t produce as much heat as incandescent bulbs, the heat they do create shortens the lifespan and reduces the efficiency of the chips. Cramming a dozen chips together in a tight bulb-shaped package that fits in today’s lamps and sockets makes the heat problem worse. The brighter the bulb, the bigger the problem is.
The most powerful pear-shaped LED bulbs in stores today — the kind that fits existing lamps — produce light equivalent to a 60-watt bulb, though there are more powerful ones for directional or flood lighting.
Osram Sylvania, a unit of Germany’s Siemens AG, said it has overcome the heat problem and will be showing a pear-shaped 100-watt-equivalent LED bulb this week. It doesn’t have a firm launch date, but it usually shows products about a year before they hit store shelves.
Lighting Sciences Group Corp., a Satellite Beach, Fla.-based company that specializes in LED lighting, will be showing several 100-watt-equivalent prototypes, including some that solve the problem of cooling the LEDs by using microscopic devices that move air over the chips, like miniature fans.
Before the 100-watters, there will be 75-watters on the shelves this year. Osram Sylvania will be selling them at Lowe’s starting in July. Royal Philips Electronics NV, the world’s biggest lighting maker, will have them in stores late this year for $40 to $45.
However, 60-watt bulbs are the big prize, since they’re the most common. There are 425 million incandescent light bulbs in the 60-watt range in use in the U.S. today, said Zia Eftekhar, the head of Philips’ North American lighting division. The energy savings that could be realized by replacing them with 10-watt LED bulbs is staggering.
To stimulate LED development, the federal government has instituted a $10 million “L Prize” for an energy-efficient replacement for the 60-watt bulb. Philips is so far the only entrant in testing, and Eftekhar expects the company to win it soon. But Lighting Sciences Group plans its own entry, which it will demonstrate at the trade show.
Philips has been selling a 60-watt-equivalent bulb at Home Depot since December that’s quite similar to the one submitted to the contest. But it’s slightly dimmer, consumes 2 watts too much power and costs $40, whereas the L Prize target is $22. Sylvania sells a similar LED bulb at Lowe’s, also for $40.
However, LED prices are coming down quickly. The DoE expects a 60-watt equivalent LED bulb to cost $10 by 2015, putting them within striking range of the price of a compact fluorescent bulb.
Bob Karlicek, the director of the Smart Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., thinks that price is achievable.
But, he said, “it’s not necessarily clear to people in the lighting industry that LED chips were ever meant to go into a bulb.”
What’s really needed, he said, is a new approach to lighting — new fixtures and lamps that spread out the LEDs, avoiding the heat problem.
Posted by Brian Montopoli
Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann on Tuesday reintroduced the “Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act,” a bill to repeal a 2007 law mandating that incandescent light bulbs be phased out.
“The government has no business telling an individual what kind of light bulb to buy,” she said in a news release Wednesday. “In 2007, Congress overstepped its bounds by mandating that only ‘energy efficient’ light bulbs may be sold after January 1, 2012. This mandate has sweeping effects on American families and businesses and needs serious consideration before taking effect.”
Bachmann says the mandate should only stay in place is (1) there is proof that alternate bulbs save consumers money, (2) there is proof that alternate bulbs significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions and (3) that it’s shown that alternate bulbs “would not lead to a health risk for consumers, particularly those in hospitals, schools, day care centers and nursing homes.”
The bill isn’t the first “nanny state” critique to come from Bachmann, who said with regard to the IRS making breast pumps eligible for tax breaks: “To think that government has to go out and buy my breast pump – you want to talk about nanny state, I think we just got a new definition.”
Bachmann, founder of the House Tea Party Caucus and a potential GOP presidential candidate, has also gone after Michelle Obama’s campaign to reduce childhood obesity, which she casts as “very consistent with where the hard left is coming from.”
House Republicans have already taken advantage of their newfound power to dial back some of Democrats’ environmental initiatives. This week, foam plastic coffee cups reappeared in Congressional cafeterias after a four year absence, the result of new Republican Speaker John Boehner moving to reverse much of former Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s “Greening the Capitol” initiative.
Pelosi had introduced compostable cups, forks and knives into the Congressional cafeterias, a cause of consternation for some customers who complained that the cutlery broke easily. She also introduced compact florescent lighting, healthier food and energy-efficient vending machines to the Capitol.
The most controversial part of Pelosi’s initiative was the decision to convert the last coal-powered power plant in Washington to cleaner burning fuel, which Boehner has not moved to reverse. The speaker has also not changed any of the anti-smoking rules that Pelosi instituted despite the fact that he is an unapologetic smoker.