Is Congress trying to dim our energy future?

This blog was written by Jennifer Rennicks, former Senior Director of Policy & Communications at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Guest Blog | July 26, 2011 | Energy Efficiency, Utilities

“One cool judgment is worth a thousand hasty councils. The thing is to supply light and not heat.” – Woodrow Wilson

The past couple of weeks have seen heat grip the nation’s capital both literally and in debate. Unbelievably – and despite growing economic uncertainty, a mounting debt crisis and multiple overseas military operations – the U.S. House of Representatives actually made time to re-debate and re-vote on bipartisan legislation designed to conserve energy and save consumers money. Some members of Congress grandstanded with lofty speeches to try and undo light bulb efficiency standards set 4 years ago. Efficiency is one of the few issues that typically generates broad Congressional support and these standards were no exception, gaining bipartisan support before being signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2007.

If preserved, these standards for incandescent, compact fluorescent (CLF), light-emitting diodes (LED) and halogen bulbs will save each American household from $50 to over $100 per year, and avoid approximately 100 million tons of global warming pollution per year – equivalent to the pollution of more than 17 million cars. Thankfully the so-called “Better Use of Light Bulbs BULB Act” [H.R. 2417] (supported by a dozen Southeastern Representatives) burned out in the House earlier this month and companion efforts may fare the same in the Senate.

It’s particularly frustrating that leaders in Congress are trying to undo these standards even with utility-backed data showing the measurable benefits of more efficient lights. A recent Duke Energy news release touts the benefits of efficient light bulbs: “In 2010, Duke Energy distributed more than 10 million free CFLs to approximately one million residential customers, saving enough energy to power nearly 45,000 homes. The energy saved offsets the same amount of carbon dioxide emissions as is produced annually by 70,000 passenger vehicles.”

Faced with such compelling data, critics of these standards (such as Texas Rep. Joe Barton) are now resorting to false facts, claiming these standards have pushed light bulb manufacturers overseas. On the contrary, Durham-based Cree Lighting employs hundreds here in North Carolina to manufacture the next generation of light bulbs with ultra-efficient LEDs (light emitting diodes) and Sylvania manufactures energy-efficient halogen light bulbs in Pennsylvania.

For now, Congressional efforts to dim the future have stalled. Nevertheless, more political theater is likely given the hyper-partisan climate in Washington, DC so check back for updates on further attempts to rollback energy progress.


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