Energy-efficient lightbulbs | Globe Editorial

Congress’ dim-watt caucus

March 23, 2011

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PEOPLE CONCERNED about ideological overkill in the new Tea Party-infused Congress should look no further than the bizarre crusade on behalf of energy-wasting lightbulbs. Acting in the name of “consumer freedom,’’ three Republicans — Representative Joe Barton of Texas, who apologized to BP during the gulf oil spill, Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, and Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming — want to repeal efficiency standards that effectively begin the phase-out of inefficient incandescent light bulbs next year.

It matters not to certain Republicans that the standards represent a bipartisan success, passed by a Democratic Congress and signed into law in 2007 by President Bush. Nor does it matter that the chief lobbying arm of American light-bulb manufacturers, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, opposes the repeal, saying the standards are already inspiring a new generation of more efficient incandescent and halogen bulbs that, along with compact fluorescents, will create “a wide variety of light bulb options for consumers.’’ Nor does it matter that a poll last month found that 71 percent of budget- and energy-conscious Americans have already begun replacing old-fashioned incandescents with the new bulbs, and that 84 percent of them say they are “satisfied’’ or “very satisfied.’’

Instead, at a Senate hearing earlier this month, Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky berated Kathleen Hogan, the Energy Department’s assistant secretary for energy efficiency. After Hogan explained that fully implemented light bulb standards could save the nation nearly $6 billion in 2015, Paul complained that energy conservation is so Draconian, “I can’t buy a toilet that works.’’ He went on to rail that the Obama administration favors “a woman’s right to an abortion but you don’t favor a woman’s or a man’s right to choose what kind of light bulb.’’ Such ranting should make light bulbs go off in the minds of other Republicans, lest this incandescence of ignorance blows up in the party’s face.