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Monday, October 17, 2011

Where will it stop?

In 1879, Thomas Edison developed the incandescent light bulb with a small carbonized filament and a vacuum inside a globe.
As Thomas Edison worked on his invention by candlelight, he didn’t need the government to stand by and demand that in five years everyone must buy one of his light bulbs—people did it on their own because the light bulb was safe, useful and more efficient.

American protests against the encroachment of government have been spurred by many causes — tea, of course, and guns, frequently. The latest catalyst: light bulbs.

"The American people want less government intrusion into their lives, not more, and that includes staying out of their personal light-bulb choices." Yes, you read that correctly.  Federal bureaucrats are running wild and the nanny state has decided that you are simply not going to have the choice to buy traditional light bulbs anymore.  So why the change? Incandescent light bulbs   have not been proven to be unsafe and consumers still want to buy them.  The new CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) light bulbs are more expensive and are actually worse for the environment.  So why was this law passed?  The feds passed it because they decided that existing light bulbs use too much energy and have too large of a "carbon footprint".  Instead of giving us choices and attempting to persuade us to change, the federal government is ramming their will down our throats.  Well, it is about time that we told the federal bureaucrats that are trying to take our freedoms away that we want them to get their dirty hands off of our light bulbs.

Thankfully there are some members of the House and Senate that are seeking to repeal this law, but right now it looks extremely doubtful that a repeal would ever be signed into law by Barack Obama.
Some people may not think that light bulbs are a big deal, but the truth is that the fact that the government tells us what kind of light bulbs to buy is just another sign of how rapidly liberty and freedom are dying in this country.

The founding fathers intended for this nation to have a very limited central government and lots of room for liberty and freedom.

But today we are "fenced in" by thousands and thousands and thousands of government regulations.  We only get to enjoy very small amounts of  "liberty" and "freedom" within the very-tightly defined boundaries that the federal government has set up for us.

A 2007 bill, passed overwhelmingly by both houses of Congress and signed into law by George W. Bush, will make the familiar incandescent bulb subject to strict efficiency standards next year.

The effect will be to make current 100-watt bulbs obsolete — and that has sent conservative lawmakers, libertarians, some environmental activists and owners of Easy-Bake Ovens into a frenzy of activity to get the law repealed or, at least, to stockpile the bulbs before they disappear from store shelves. (I am doing that, buying every time I go shopping) I do care about my carbon footprint, not to mention my light bill but unless something dramatic happens to bring down the cost of alternatives, I will continue stashing away a pile of incandescent bulbs.

The law does not outlaw incandescent bulbs or dictate that consumers must use the spiral-shaped compact fluorescent lights that have become increasingly popular in recent years. Rather, it sets standards for the amount of light emitted per watt of power used. Current 100-watt bulbs must become 25 percent more efficient, and makers are designing new bulbs.

To Representative Joe Barton, the Texas Republican who has sponsored a bill to reverse the new guidelines, that nevertheless means Congress is dictating what types of light Americans can use in their homes.

“From the health insurance you’re allowed to have, to the car you can drive, to the light bulbs you can buy, Washington is making too many decisions that are better left to you and your family,” Mr. Barton said when he introduced his bill in January.

Opponents of the regulations say the fluorescent bulbs are too expensive, flicker annoyingly and are health hazards because they contain mercury.

Several companies in the United States are working on light-emitting diode, or LED, bulbs, and on energy-efficient halogen incandescent bulbs, which use a halogen element enclosed in a traditional glass bulb.

I don't think halogen bulbs are all that efficient and they generate enough heat to probably be a good substitute for the 100 watt bulb in the Easy Bake Ovens. I think once the economies of scale kick in the LED bulbs will be the way to go. I have bought a couple of them at Wal-Mart for about $6 each and I like the light they put out. They take dramatically less electricity to operate and they should last longer than the other alternatives.

An electric lighting system was born—as convenient, safe and economical of a choice for consumers in his day as it would be for the next 100 years, and now beyond that thanks to a vote in the House of Representatives today.

A provision in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 that requires traditional incandescent light bulbs to be 30 percent more energy efficient beginning in 2012,” failed in the House of Representatives earlier this week.  With 233 members of Congress voting in favor, 193 against and one voting present, the Better Use of Light Bulbs (BULB) Act failed to pass under the necessary suspended rules requiring a two-thirds majority.

An amendment offered by Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) defunding the Energy Department’s new energy-efficient standards easily passed by a voice vote.

Consumers now might not be met with a 2012 deadline before incandescent light bulbs completely disappear from store shelves altogether.

Citizens and some members of Congress are up in arms over this government intervention telling consumers what light bulbs can and cannot be used in a home.  The Energy Act of 2007 did not outrightly ban incandescent light bulbs, but by requiring a 30 percent increase in energy efficiency, the bulbs effectively go away.

This begs the question, was government intervention into the light bulb industry necessary?
What if the government had not intervened in setting this mandate?  Wouldn’t consumers naturally want a more energy-efficient, cost-cutting source of light?

If today’s Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL) and Light Emitting Diode (LED) are truly beneficial products, consumer demand will take over and no mandate would be necessary to get people to purchase and use them.

When the government meddles in the free market and pushes a product, essentially picking winners and losers, the results often don’t go as planned.

For example, Sam Kazman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) cites a story about a small town in Iowa where the government’s hope of energy efficiency backfired.  The Great Light Bulb Exchange took place in the 1980s in Traer, Iowa, where about half the town traded in their incandescent lights for free florescent lights.  The result: electricity consumption rose by about 8 percent.  Since the cost of electricity went down due to a more energy-efficient bulb, demand increased as people used their light bulbs more frequently.

If the government were to step away and let consumers choose what light bulb they’d prefer, the new energy-efficient bulbs could become highly popular all on their own. Americans are smart. They want products that will best benefit them.

In fact, a new poll suggests 58% of respondents oppose banning the incandescent light bulb when asked by Pulse Opinion Research.  The poll question specifically read, “While banning the sale of traditional light bulbs, a new law will allow only more expensive light bulbs that are expected to last longer and be more energy efficient.  Should the sale of traditional light bulbs be banned?”  Even 44% of Democrats did not favor the phasing out of the incandescent light bulbs. 40 percent of respondents indicated that they would be less likely to vote for a politician that supported the light bulb ban.

When the government jumps the demand curve it is often met with resentment, failed policies and negative results.

Hopefully that pattern will continue. 

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