Washington Digest: House blocks funding for light bulb standards

WASHINGTON -- The House last week debated whether to scrap new standards that are propelling a shift away from traditional incandescent light bulbs to more energy-saving alternatives.

An amendment to block funding for the standards passed by voice vote, after lawmakers took a 233-193 test vote.

Republicans proposed to overturn a 2007 law that required bulbs to be 30 percent more efficient by 2012. It does not explicitly ban incandescent light bulbs, but the new standards would lead to the dis­appearance of 100-watt bulbs, with lower-wattage bulbs to follow.

Supporters of the new standards said twisty compact fluorescent bulbs and LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs will save families billions of dollars on their electric bills despite a higher upfront cost.

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said the shift to energy-saving bulbs "saves the need to construct 30 coal-fired plants over the next 20 years in the United States."

"The point is it reduces the amount of greenhouse gases that we have to send up into the atmosphere," Markey said. "It reduces the amount of energy that we have to think about importing from other countries."

But Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, said the regulation "has the effect of taking off the market one of the least expensive options for lighting in our constituents' homes."

Barton said one 60-watt fluorescent bulb cost $5.99, while he paid $1.50 for four 60-watt incandescent bulbs.

"I have had very few people say ... the federal government should be telling us what kind of light bulbs we should and should not use. They think we should let the marketplace operate," Barton said.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., voted for the light bulb standards. Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., voted to block them.


The House voted 219-196 for a bill spending $30.6 billion in the 2012 fiscal year for energy programs and federal water agencies, following a week of debate over the nation's energy priorities.

The Republican-formed bill reduces by $1.9 billion the funding that President Barack Obama requested for energy efficiency programs, solar energy and other forms of renewable energy research and development.

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., energy subcommittee chairman, said reductions were made in areas "in which the private sector is most likely to act without federal support."

Democrats complained the measure tilted far in favor of traditional fossil programs as well as nuclear energy. Only 10 Democrats voted for the bill.

"The Republicans are telling Americans that their plan is to retreat from a clean energy future," Markey said. "It's oil above all."

Berkley and Heck voted against the bill.

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault @stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760.