(by Nathan Burchfiel, CNSNews.com) – A Republican congressman on Wednesday wouldn’t rule out legislation as a way to prod American consumers to switch from traditional incandescent light bulbs to more efficient modern bulbs.
Rep. Don Manzullo (R-Ill.) called legislation a “last choice” but did not rule it out as an option in the long term. Manzullo spoke at a news conference in Washington, D.C., with representatives from the energy industry and environmental interest groups promoting the modern bulbs.
The groups hope to encourage manufacturers and consumers to switch to new bulbs that cost more upfront but can save money on electricity bills, due to their increased efficiency. One bulb manufactured by Philips is guaranteed to last six years (8,000 operation hours) and purports to save $22 in energy costs over its lifetime.
“The last thing we want to do is force legislation down people’s throats,” Manzullo said. But he said the goal to “greatly reduce the amount of electricity that lighting consumes” may require legislation to serve as a “focal point that you look at to try to move the country forward.”
“There may be legislation that would pass under unanimous consent of both houses if it’s done right,” he said. “That’s what I would like to see done.”
But other members of what Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) called the “Lighting Efficiency Coalition” were more straightforward with their support for legislation that would mandate efficiency standards for light bulbs, effectively banning the production of traditional incandescent bulbs.
Kathleen Rogers, president of the Earth Day Network, said it would take consumer education on the benefits of modern bulbs and congressional action to begin the change.
“It takes a combination of courage and leadership from the state and federal government to make things happen,” she said.
“The American economy is replete with stories about industry moving ahead and deciding among themselves with the consent and help of the U.S. Congress and the states to replace products, so I believe that Congress and the states do need to act,” Rogers added.
Even a major player in the lighting industry is supporting the push for legislative action on light bulb efficiency. Philips Electronics, which calls itself a pioneer of compact fluorescent technology, is “advocating an industry-wide initiative” that would phase out the inefficient bulbs.
Brian Darling, director of Senate relations at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said it is “unfortunate that a company would ever be asking the federal government to mandate the use of a certain technology.”
“If they really believe in what they’re advocating, they should cease to produce these so-called inefficient light bulbs,” Darling said, adding he is skeptical that the new bulbs would save as much money as manufacturers suggest.
Darling said it is “unusual” for a company to ask for federal regulation of their product unless it will benefit them financially. In this case, a federal standard would ensure that incandescent bulbs would not be available from any manufacturer, so if Philips stopped producing the bulbs, it would not lose business.
“This company conceivably could be using environmentalism as a pretext to market their more expensive and more energy efficient bulbs to the detriment of their competition, who produce cheaper bulbs,” he said.
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1. How would proposed “light-bulb” legislation force people to buy energy efficient (fluorescent) light bulbs?
2. a) How much money does the Philips company say could be saved per year per light bulb by switching to their new fluorescent light bulb which lasts 6 years?
b) Count the number of lamps/light bulbs in your home. How much money would be saved per year if you switched to the Philips fluorescent bulbs?
3. Re-read the statements made by Kathleen Rogers of the environmental group Earth Day Network (para. 7-9) and Brian Darling of the conservative group Heritage Foundation (para. 11-14) With whom do you agree? Why?
4. The difference between incandescent (regular) and compact fluorescent (new) light bulbs, according to the Philips Company website, is that “incandescent light bulbs use a filament to produce light, but compact fluorescent bulbs use fluorescent technology and are 4-5 times more efficient than the incandescent bulbs they replace.” Philips also says that fluorescent light bulbs “produce a soft, pleasing light that can add warmth and comfort to every room in your home.”
Consumers who don’t like these energy efficient bulbs say that the light they produce is not a warm light like incandescent bulbs, but unpleasant lighting as used in offices, stores, schools, libraries, etc.
a) If you continue to have the choice between inexpensive incandescent bulbs that use more energy but produce a more pleasing light, or expensive fluorescent bulbs that save energy and save you some money in the long run, but produce an unpleasing light, what will you choose? Explain your answer.
b) OPTIONAL: If you haven’t used one yet, buy an energy efficient light bulb and test out the light produced for yourself. Which light do you find more pleasing: the regular incandescent or the new fluorescent? Ask the opinion of your family members as well.
5. If consumers will not buy a product that would save them money and reduce energy use, should the government force them to do so?
6. Do you support a “light-bulb” law? Why or why not?