Planet Gore

The Bulb Is Saved

The lights are still on.

In a shrewd political move at the end of the Washington fiscal year, House Republicans inserted language in the annual, omnibus Appropriations Bill funding the U.S. government that blocks federal energy standards banning the traditional, incandescent light bulb. Thomas Edison can stop spinning in his grave and the American people can cheer a victory for consumer choice.

The bulb ban was a dark symbol of the Obama administration’s zealous appeasement of the green god of global warming. It was also a window into Washington crony capitalism as General Electric lobbied for a bulb ban — initially also supported by key Republican lawmakers — in order to force consumers to buy more expensive compact fluorescents (CFLs). Like CAFE laws that force auto mpg improvements, the restrictive energy rules were a sneaky backdoor regulation mandating the amount of energy a bulb used — effectively eliminating the cheap incandescents chosen by 85 percent of American consumers.

“It’s a milestone for personal freedom,” says Freedom Action’s Myron Ebell who fought hard in the trenches to overturn the ban. “This is a significant reversal of Nanny State regulations. Maybe this is a turning of the tide.”

The bulb’s rescue however, will not restore the hundreds of U.S. jobs lost over the last few years as GE and other bulb manufacturers shuttered factories and shipped the jobs to China where more expensive CFL bulbs can be manufactured with cheap labor.

“We heard the message loud and clear from Americans who don’t want government standards determining how they light their homes,” said Michigan congressman Fred Upton, who helped lead the charge. The Energy Committee chair’s leadership did not come without eating some crow as he was an original sponsor of the ban when George W. Bush — apparently suffering from Guilty Oil Man Syndrome — pushed the legislation in 2007. Despite repeated setbacks — with House efforts met by Harry Reid’s Senate stonewall — Republicans maintained pressure as the public became more aware of the impending January 1, 2012 ban.

Democrats and their corporate cronies did not go down silently. “The light bulb language had emerged as a sticking point in negotiations this week,” observed Bloomberg News, “and its inclusion in the final bill is a blow to Democratic efforts to remove it.”

“I strongly oppose that language,” huffed Senate Energy Chairman Jeff Bingaman, (D., N.M.), who was joined by an Iron Triangle of Democrats, Greens, and industry groups. “Eliminating funding for light bulb efficiency standards is especially poor policy as it would leave the policy in place but make it impossible to enforce,” raged the coalition.

Upton was joined by Reps. Joe Barton (R., Texas), and Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.), in saving the bulb — with a significant assist from Speaker John Boehner and House Appropriations Committee Chair Hal Rogers of Kentucky, who know a winning political issue when they see one. Along with the 120,000-job Keystone pipeline, the bulb issue helps to illuminate the fact that the Green religion is not only an imposition on personal freedom, but a job killer.

This time, Big Government lost. Merry Christmas.

Henry Payne — Henry Payne is the auto critic for the Detroit News.

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