Lawmakers push bulb changes on consumers

By Freedom Newspapers

One of the original icons of the modern world could soon be replaced. If environmentalists and climate-change doomsayers have their way, the ubiquitous incandescent light bulb might soon be found only in museums, instead of nearly every building in the United States.

That would be a great loss. The soft, warm glow of these bulbs emanates from houses across the land each evening, illuminating our nights and welcoming travelers home.

But for all their commercial success, incandescent bulbs are inefficient. Most of the electricity they use produces heat rather than light.

Newer technologies such as compact fluorescent bulbs and light-emitting diodes are more efficient alternatives. They use much less electricity to provide the same amount of light.

Unfortunately, rather than allowing educated consumers to make the choice on their own, government is sticking its nose into the process.

California lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban the sale of incandescent bulbs by 2012. State Rep. Lloyd Levine introduced the bill in February, and he says the idea is becoming more popular as people learn more about it.

“As this idea is getting worldwide attention,” he said, people “are now saying, ‘Hey, this makes sense.’”

If dumping incandescent bulbs really makes sense, people will make the change on their own. A better plan would be to educate consumers about the newer technologies. Then they can make the choice about what’s best for them and their lifestyles.

That’s the approach being considered in Texas, where lawmakers are mulling a proposal to replace incandescent bulbs with more efficient CFLs and LEDs in all public buildings and public schools.

“The real purpose is to set a good example at the state level and draw attention … to the availability of lower-wattage options,” said Democrat Rep. Mark Strama, who proposed the bill.

Not to be left out of the rush to ban the bulb, Congress is working on efficiency standards that would effectively phase out incandescent lighting. One thing it is considering piques our interest. The feds are considering an incentive for manufacturers and inventors to come up with new, more efficient lighting sources. Ideally, we’d prefer to see such bounties offered by the private sector, such as the X Prize Foundation for the first privately launched space vehicle in 2004. Barring that, however, a minimally intrusive plan such as this is preferable to the feds simply handing down edicts, such as it does with CAFE standards for fuel efficiency in automobiles and trucks.

If replacing inefficient incandescent bulbs with more efficient light sources will save them money, consumers will shift to the new technologies without government telling them they must. After all, it’s their money they’re saving.