Personal Choice and Freedom Unaffected by Federal Lighting Standard

Guest Blog | April 19, 2011 | Energy Efficiency

bulb-choiceThis blog was written by SACE intern Rachel Mountain and Natalie Mims.

Beginning January 1, 2012, the federal government is implementing a lighting standard that requires incandescent bulbs to be at least 30% more efficient, resulting in a $7 billion reduction in consumer energy bills by 2020. Further, the lighting efficiency standard will reduce energy consumption by 72 billion kWh by 2020, which is enough to displace approximately 30 power plants.

This lighting standard was one piece of the Energy Independence and Security Act 2007 (EISA). Some politicians say that this lighting efficiency standard retracts personal freedom and limits consumer choice. These self-proclaimed consumer advocates believe “less is more” in regards to government involvement, specifically for residential lighting. And they are right. The less product standards we have for lighting, the more electricity and money we waste.

U.S. House Representatives Joe Barton and Michael Burgess of Texas, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming are among those who oppose lighting standards. They believe the standards remove consumers’ personal choice and freedom. However, nearly all human activities are regulated by standards – food safety, drug safety, hospital practices – all of which make our society safer, cheaper, and cleaner.

Right here in the Southeast, South Carolina State Representatives Bill Sandifer and Dwight Loftis have introduced a bill to manufacture and sell inefficient bulbs that do not meet the federal lighting efficiency standard in South Carolina. While these representatives claim to be looking out for consumers’ best interest, repealing the federal lighting standard simply does not achieve that goal. Instead of providing consumers with more lighting choices, lower electricity bills and reduced reliance on risky electricity sources, politicians are supporting a stagnant status quo.

Choices Remainblack-bulbs

Representative Sandifer was quoted as saying, “There are a huge number of people who do not like the CFLs, the fluorescent light bulbs, and they want to have a viable alternative.” It seems that some politicians do not understand the federal lighting standard. EISA does not ban incandescent bulbs, but it does place energy efficiency standards on them. In fact, the incandescent bulb will still be an option for consumers, but will be more efficient and add to electric bill savings – just as new dishwashers, clothes washers, dryers, refrigerators, and many other energy consuming devices that have federal efficiency standards have done.

CFLs are only one of four light bulb technologies (“available in a store near you”) that meet the EISA lighting standards. Two of the four are incandescent, providing great alternatives for those who prefer to use traditional light bulbs. The vice president of Philips Electronics, Randy Moorhead, says in anticipation of the new standards, companies like his have started selling new incandescent bulbs that comply with the law. Acuity Brand Lighting, for example, is committed to 100% compliance with federal and state legislation. Since January 1, 2009, all of their applicable products manufactured and sold in the United States meet EISA lighting requirements. Additionally, LED lighting manufacturers in the Southeast such as Cree Inc. in North Carolina and Boca Flasher in Florida are providing even more money-saving options for consumers. While the South Carolina law seeks to link light bulb manufacturers to the desire to maintain inefficient products in the marketplace, in fact, manufacturers support the EISA lighting standards.

American Jobsamerican-jobs

Conservative news sources focus on incandescent factories in the United States that are shutting down and moving overseas, but fail to note that existing manufacturing facilities are also making the new, efficient bulbs, keeping jobs in the U.S. In response to the impending lighting standards, Philips Lighting Company has already introduced infrared technology, creating  jobs across America. Collectively, the National Appliance Conservation Act of 1987 (NAECA), EPA Acts of 1992 and 1995, and the EISA have created about 340,000 jobs in 2010 alone.

Saving Consumers Money

We have all burned ourselves on a hot light bulb. That heat makes up about 90% of the energy usage of a traditional light bulb, which also means that 90% of the money we spend on lighting is not actually spent on keeping the lights on. It is spent on unwanted heat from light bulbs. The EISA lighting standard will increase the amount of light that is created from a bulb, while using the same amount of energy, which translates to saved money. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy estimates that the 2007 EISA lighting standards alone will account for a reduction in consumer energy bills by more than $7 billion by 2020. All residential appliances meeting minimum efficiency standards created by the NAECA and its updates will amount to approximately $124 billion in net savings by 2030.

Efficiency standards have had a long history of successful implementation, and we should continue to enact more product standards to help consumers. Supporting EISA’s lighting efficiency standards is a step towards saving money and energy, while providing consumers with a variety of lighting options. Consumers will reap economic and monetary benefits, as well as promote innovation and new markets. Lighting efficiency standards are not an issue of government control, but a move towards a more energy efficient economy and a ‘brighter,’ more sustainable future.

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