A step backward on energy-efficient lighting

Scott Tong Dec 16, 2011

Jeremy Hobson: Well in the bill Congress is likely to pass today is a little unrelated provision involving light bulbs. Remember the government had planned to phase out certain kinds of bulbs in January?

Well as Scott Tong reports from the Marketplace sustanability desk, that date is being pushed back.

Scott Tong: The fight is over the cheapest, least efficient light bulbs. A law passed four years ago, and signed by President Bush, phases them out starting in January.

Jim Presswood at the Natural Resources Defense Council says more efficient incandescents will still be for sale. They cost a bit more but ultimately save you money by cutting your power bill.

Jim Presswood: New, efficient incandescent light bulbs are about 30 percent more efficient than the old incandescent bulbs, which have essentially been unchanged since Thomas Edison made some innovations to them about 120 years ago. And most of the energy of these incandescent bulbs is wasted as heat.

Republican leaders have a philosophical beef with this — it’s a matter of consumer choice. Today’s spending bill undercuts enforcement — it deprives the government of money to bust the makers and importers of less-efficient bulbs — at least for nine months. So you may see them on the shelves.

Confused? Industry is not a fan of this back and forth either. Sylvania, Philips and GE all supported the new standards, and they retooled their factories. Now the goalposts are moving again.

In Washington, I’m Scott Tong for Marketplace.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.