Incandescent Lights Out

Dec 31 2013 @ 5:50pm

Lightbulbs

The US will stop making and importing 40- and 60-watt incandescent lightbulbs starting tomorrow:

This follows the recently completed transitions from the old 100- and 75-watt incandescent bulbs over the past two years, a process that unfolded very smoothly because there are so many better-performing options available. Consumers now have three major types of bulbs to choose from: new and improved incandescents that use 28% less energy, and CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) and LEDs (light-emitting diodes) that provide energy savings of at least 75% and last a lot longer. …

To be clear, incandescents are not disappearing at the first of the year — they’re just getting more efficient. And technological advances — like the GE 43W bulb below that replaces the 60-watt incandescent — have already saved homeowners and businesses billions of dollars on their energy bills. The new standards eventually will save as much electricity as is generated by 30 large coal-burning power plants – and the associated pollution that harms our health and contributes to climate change – every single year.

Benen discusses the politics of the phaseout:

In 2007, Congress tackled a pretty important energy bill, which included light-bulb provisions that weren’t considered controversial in the slightest. At the time, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and congressional Democrats worked together on the larger legislative package, which included advanced light-bulb standards intended to spur innovation, lower costs, and improve energy efficiency. The provision was approved with bipartisan support – the radicalization of the Republican Party has intensified quickly in recent years – and the larger bill was easily passed and signed by President George W. Bush.

What’s more, the policy has been quite successful, working exactly as intended, and producing the kind of energy innovation proponents hoped to see. It was, by any fair measure, a bipartisan success story. We’ll still occasionally hear Republicans describe the Bush/Cheney-backed energy bill as an authoritarian scourge intended to literally keep Americans in the dark, but the transition to a smarter energy policy has actually progressed nicely and efficiently.

If you absolutely must have your incandescent light, Larry Birnbaum found a loophole in the law that lets him manufacture “rough service” bulbs and sell them to the general public:

The law has a variety of exceptions, though, for “for specialty lighting, including bulbs with unusual bases, others meant for special display purposes, and rough service bulbs.” Birnbaum described a “rough service” bulb as one that “can take a beating, one meant for industrial purposes — imagine a lightbulb on a subway car, built to survive the jostling and vibrations of the daily commute.” He said that they work like normal bulbs and, as Fox News noted, “consumers can buy them and screw them into any ordinary lamp socket.” Birnbaum applied for a permit to build the bulbs in 2010 and, after a tedious and bureaucratic process, he finally got approval to make his “Newcandescents” bulbs, which “began shipping in 2010 — made in America, at a plant outside of Indianapolis by around two dozen employees.” Birnbaum said that he received over $100,000 worth of orders after an appearance on the Rush Limbaugh show in 2012.