How many members of Congress does it take to try to screw up a light bulb bill? The answer is 233, the number who voted on July 12 to repeal new light bulb efficiency standards which start phasing in next year. But, fortunately for the original bill, those were not enough votes to meet the two-thirds majority required for passage.
The lighting industry lobbied strongly before the vote. Manufacturers wanted to emphasize that advances in the industry would only help the economy. Lighting Science Group, a major manufacturer of LED-based lighting, cited its company as an "example of how American businesses can innovate and compete while creating jobs" and called for Congress to "reject efforts to repeal these standards."
It's funny how things change during an election year. The old law was a bipartisan effort and signed by President George W. Bush in 2007. That bill, the Energy Independence and Security Act, or EISA, didn't just set lighting and appliance efficiency standards; it also moved the gas mileage bar higher for motor vehicles, and modified a standard for renewable fuels (read: mostly ethanol).
But now conservative politicians have turned the repeal of the light bulb standards into a cause celebre. They claim it is just another example of big government telling citizens how to live their lives. Incandescent bulbs are cheaper, they argue; why should people be forced to pay more for higher-tech lighting?
Unfortunately, the typical incandescent bulb's technology is more than100 years old. Only the newest, more expensive incandescent bulbs can meet the new standards. So can compact florescent lights and solid-state lighting (such as LEDs).
LEDs show the highest energy-efficiency promise: Under one scenario created by the Department of Energy, the annual energy savings in 2030 would be about $15 billion that year alone (at 2010 energy prices).
Another advantage that CFLs and LEDs have over incandescent bulbs is their lifespans. An incandescent has an estimated life of 1,200 hours. Compare that to 10,000 hours for a CFL and 50,000 hours for an LED. Cost, though, is still much higher for LEDs. But a spokesperson for light bulb manufacturer Philips, a division of Koninklijke Philips Electronics
Lighting colossus GE
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Fool contributor Dan Radovsky owns shares of General Electric. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.