The Incandescent Light Bulb Survives For Another Year
December 17, 2011

The Incandescent Light Bulb Survives For Another Year

The incandescent light bulb seems to have won a new lease on life, at least for the next 9 months say Washington insiders. According to reports coming out of the capitol, Congressional leaders reached an agreement on Thursday that will effectively, if temporarily, nullify legislation passed in 2007 that would have outlawed traditional incandescent bulbs as early as next spring.

The new deal constitutes just a tiny part of the monolithic 1,200-page spending bill that designates the amount and allocation of federal funds for the 2012 fiscal year. After ominous talks of an eventual government shutdown, the bill is expected to win approval by both parties when it goes before both the Senate and the House of Representatives this Friday.

Republicans in both houses of Congress were persuaded to drop most of the various policy restrictions that they had attempted to include in the bill, but they managed to pull out a handful of minor victories, including a provision that will keep incandescent bulbs on the market.

The 2007 law would not, technically, have made incandescent light bulbs illegal but rather would have erected energy standards which old-school bulbs cannot meet.

Most light bulb manufacturers are not pleased with the decision, as many members of the industry had already invested millions in preparing to comply with the new standards.

“The industry is concerned that any delay in federal enforcement...will undermine those investments and also create regulatory uncertainty,” Kyle Pitsor, VP of government affairs for the trade group National Electrical Manufacturers Association, explained to Chris Isidore @CNNMoney .

Members of the voluntary organization are responsible for making more than 95% of the light bulbs on the U.S. market and had largely supported the 2007 legislation.

Pitsor says that industry leaders are concerned that overseas manufacturers will seize the opportunity to import cheap, inefficient bulbs, putting American producers at a serious competitive disadvantage.

Repealing the restrictive energy legislation had become a hot-button topic for many republicans this year. While Senate Democrats managed to block a previous bill that would have revoked the law, the GOP was tenacious in negotiations on the spending bill and the squabble over incandescent light bulbs became one of their last, most significant holdouts.

“When the American people gave Republicans control of the House in January, one of the major issues involved was the Democratic ban on the 100 watt bulb,” Republican Congressman Michael Burgess of Texas told Stephen Dinan of The Washington Times. “Republicans have fulfilled our promise to the American people by allowing them to continue to be able to choose what type of bulb they use at home. Consumers should drive the marketplace, not the government.”

Although the light bulb clause of the new spending bill does not officially repeal the original 2007 law, it does prevent federal agencies from appropriating funds for the purpose of enforcing the energy standards, thus making the law obsolete in practical terms.

Constituting some $915 billion in federal discretionary spending for a vast array of government agencies, in recent months the funding bill has become a bitter battle-ground for partisan tug-of-war over diverse policy issues.

Another contentious policy issue has been an add-on to the bill that will require all new federal workers to be approved by E-Verify, a digital background check system that determines whether would-be employees are eligible to work in the U.S. Other issues included a clause that prevents the D.C. government from using federal dollars to subsidize abortions, and another restricts security agencies from transferring Guantanamo prisoners to U.S. soil.

But the vast majority policy restriction add-ons–or ℠policy riders´–that Republicans tried to introduce were weeded out by Democrats.

“These contentious policy riders had no place in our annual appropriations bills, and it was encouraging that we were able to remove nearly all of them from the final version of this bill,” said the ranking Democrat of the House Appropriations Committee Norm Dicks.


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