If energy needs to be saved, there are good ways to do it.
                                                               Government product regulation is not one of them

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

USA: Congress blocks Light Bulb Ban Funding

As of a few minutes ago as this is written, the House of Representatives has easily passed the Omnibus spending package 359 to 67, partly thwarting the light Bulb ban (blocking oversight funding).

January 14 article in USA Today by Wendy Koch

Congress to bar enforcement of light-bulb phaseout
The $1.1 trillion spending bill, which covers all federal agencies
and is expected to pass the House and Senate this week, bars the
Department of Energy from spending money to enforce federal rules that
set tougher efficiency standards for light bulbs. Such a measure has
been attached to prior budget deals as well....

This phaseout -- begun in January 2012 with the 100-watt, followed by
the 75-watt last year and the 60-watt and 40-watt this month -- has
angered many Americans who dislike newer bulbs partly because of their
higher up-front costs. House Republicans have tried but failed to stop
the phaseout so they've focused instead on de-funding its enforcement.

In announcing the new budget deal, Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., chairman
of the House Appropriations Committee, called the
light-bulb-efficiency standard "onerous" and welcomed the enforcement

The issue is also covered Jan 14 on ARS Technica by John Timmer, and more widely repeated:
Unfortunately (!) he gets it wrong that the standards are repealed, rather than just the funding.
"As part of the new budget deal announced today, Congress has voted to eliminate standards for light bulb efficiency"
Perhaps that is why his story was widely reported on the internet.
It follows similar misunderstanding from previous budget blocks.

Nevertheless with slight editing, his remarks were true:
Recent Congresses have tried many times to repeal the standards, but these have all been blocked.
However, US budgets are often used as a vehicle to get policies enacted that couldn't pass otherwise, since having an actual budget is considered too valuable to hold up over relatively minor disputes. The repeal of the [funding of] these standards got attached to the budget and will be passed into law with it.

Following up on this, Washington Post today, Jan 15 in an article, asks...

My emphases and [] added comment:
....So what did Congress just do?

Tucked inside the $1.012 trillion spending bill that Congress is considering, there's a provision that would bar funding for enforcement of the new lightbulb standards. (It's the same bill that Burgess was pushing last summer and which he added to a 2011 budget bill.) That means the Energy Department can't spend any money to prohibit the manufacture or import of old bulbs.

Will this enforcement provision make any difference?

In some ways, no. All of the big manufacturers — General Electric, Philips, Sylvania — have been working for years to comply with the new standards, churning out new CFLs and halogens and LEDs. They're not expected to change course now.

But some stores could, in theory, try to sell the older incandescents if they can get their hands on them. Opponents of the enforcement provision have worried that foreign companies will do exactly that. "Given that American manufacturers have committed to following the law regardless of whether or not it is enforced," said Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) last year, "the only benefit of this ill-informed rider is to allow foreign manufacturers who may not feel a similar obligation—to import noncompliant light bulbs that will not only harm the investments made by U.S. companies, but place at risk the U.S. manufacturing jobs associated with making compliant bulbs."
[presumably more likely re distributors rather than manufacturers]

Whether that happens or not remains to be seen. It's still illegal to make or import old lightbulbs. The rider just makes it a little easier to get away with it in practice.

Again, today:
Fox News 15 January 2014 unsigned article

My emphases added again:
Congress offers glimmer of hope for incandescent light bulb

The House is expected to vote on a $1.1 trillion spending bill that dictates the budgets for all federal agencies House Wednesday afternoon -- and it may be a desperately needed lifeline for the light bulb.

The bill includes a prohibition on funding for “the Administration’s onerous ‘light bulb’ standard,” as Appropriations Committee chairman Hal Rogers (R., Ky) described it, which had sought to dramatically improve the energy efficiency of ordinary incandescent light bulbs but ultimately spelled the end of the road for the century-old technology.

A portion of that 2007 law, which finally took effect on Jan. 1, mandated that manufacturers improve their light bulbs: 40W bulbs must draw just 10.5W, and 60W bulbs must draw no more than 11W. The result is the effectively a ban: Incandescents simply can’t keep up with those twisty compact fluorescent (CFL) and newer LED bulbs.

But there's hope for those glass globes yet, however: Citing “a continued public desire for these products,” the Energy and Water Appropriations section of the bill would prohibit funds to implement or enforce the higher efficiency light bulb standards.

“None of the funds made available in this Act may be used … to implement or enforce the standards established by the tables contained in section 325(i)(1)(B) of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act,” reads section 322 of the bill.

Critics call the funding ban a nuisance, but said it likely won’t stop the shift toward more energy-efficient bulbs, according to USA Today.

"The market has marched forward despite this rider," Franz Matzner, associate director of government affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told the paper. "The manufacturers have all been saying -- we're going to comply anyway."

The demise of the incandescent bulb might come as a surprise to most Americans. A recent study by Lutron pointed out that fewer than 1 in 3 adults (just 28 percent) were aware of the planned phase out. A similar Socket Survey by Sylvania showed slightly more awareness -- 4 in 10 were aware of the phase out, it revealed.

A quick check of Home Depot’s website indicates no shortage of incandescent bulbs; the company sells a six-pack for just under $10 -- and for the born hoarder, a pack of 288 for $118.

In late December, Home Depot told FoxNews.com it had a six-month stockpile before the supplies ran out.


The amendment to the yearly Water and Energy bill was made in July 2013 by Texan Congressman Michael Burgess
and follows the same manoeuvre in 2012 and 2011.

In practice the result is less clear, as local manufacturers are wary to base production on temporary if to date yearly
Unsurprisingly Texas Congressmen have been behind this, since Gov Rick Perry legalized regular incandescents in Texas which would otherwise be subject to federal opposition, like Arizona gun laws etc

Interesting comment made in the USA Today article above by NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), normally very much in favor of the ban as per their website.

With my emphasis
"The market has marched forward despite this rider," says Franz Matzner, associate director of government affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group. "The manufacturers have all been saying -- we're going to comply anyway."

Yet Matzner says the ban should be eliminated, because it can create a loophole for illegal imports of the old incandescents and doesn't allow DOE to help U.S. companies meet the new standards. The phaseout doesn't stop stores from selling remaining stock of the old bulbs but bars them from making or importing them.

Note, his remark
"the manufacturers have all been saying -- we're going to comply anyway" is presumably in regard to the recent legal block.
Otherwise, as amply covered - and referenced - elsewhere here, major manufacturers jumped in with green activists to seek the ban to stop any small or new local outfits from making the easily made simple generic patent-expired popular cheap bulbs, profitable to the local manufactures on small overheads, but admittedly less profitable than patented complex expensive new CFL/LED alternatives for the majors - and they also wanted "political payback" for any such encouraged investments.
This of course also follows the exact same tactic by the exact same manufacturers to stop small companies from making incandescent bulbs lasting longer than 1000 hours, under the Phoebus cartel, also covered previously here.
Even as the pro-ban lobby themselves typically say, albeit with a different rationale in justifying government legislation:
"The manufacturers had decades to stop making them - but didn't".

As always, the main point is not of manufacturers naturally seeking to make profit and to lobby for them, but rather that legislating politicians wrongfully hand them over...

How Regulations are Wrongly Justified
14 points, referenced:
Includes why the overall society savings aren't there, and even if they were, why alternative policies are better, including alternative policies that target light bulbs.


Halogenica said...

So this is sort of good news?

Wouldn't it be ironic if some US stores started importing bulbs from China instead of producing them in now closed local factories? I guess they could charge more for them too, according to law of supply and demand...

Lighthouse said...

Good point about illegal imports - and thereby the transport (like bunker oil fuelled ships from China) compared to local sustainable manufacture.

Locally this could then include small outfits making longer lasting incandescents, since major manufacturers would no longer be controlling the markets with their 1000 hour standard, if they are so busy converting to other bulbs as the articles say!

Anonymous said...

What was necessary to fund? The manufacturers lobbied for this change.the stores are for it & the people are going along with it. Where was the funding to enforce this ban going to go?

Lighthouse said...

Thanks Anonymous,
the ban is on import and manufacture so those are the main 2 instances on which monitoring is hampered (distribution of incandescents within USA is not a problem).

In turn, as the articles say, that means imports may be made without specific monitoring (how much regular customs inspections would take it into account is open to question)

It also means that manufacture in say Texas (as locally legalized) is not subjected to federal control, significant inasmuch that Texas Congressmen are the ones mainly behind the federal block and repeal efforts.

As for the major manufacturers, certainly they like it as you say - to increase profits on patented expensive alternatives they presumably would not otherwise sell.
Smaller local independent manufacturers do not welcome it, as expressed in South Carolina and elsewhere, and as posted on previously.
Stores are happy to sell what people want - I don't see your comment as applicable other than that they'd be happy to take larger profit cuts and subsidies from Gov sales plans - hardly "favorable" for citizens.

Meanwhile people "going along" with it is that most likely don't know and that a gradual ban is noticed less.
As per previous post re consumer surveys,
Rasmussen survey has it that overwhelming majority don't like Gov interference in what they buy.

Conversely, any surveys that say "people like new bulbs" etc are questionable:
Why haven't they bought the bulbs voluntarily then.

The "they only buy cheap" argument does not hold (and hardly wrong even when it does!):
New bulbs desirable - No point banning old ones.
New bulbs not desirable - No point banning old ones.

There is not a single case for banning simple safe popular bulbs - not one, as also per the 14 point referenced rundown you might care to peruse...

Lumenstar said...

I agree with Halogenica that importing the bulbs from China would be more ironic