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House Blocks Funding For New Light Bulb Standards

A pair of incandescent light bulbs.
Dominique Faget
AFP/Getty Images
A pair of incandescent light bulbs.

Tucked inside the omnibus spending bill that the House of Representatives passed earlier, today, is a provision that prevents the Department of Energy from enforcing new, more energy efficient standards for light bulbs.

The new standards were signed into law in 2007 by then President Bush, but the standards have become a favorite cause for Rush Limbaugh and the Tea Party, who say the bill would ban incandescent light bulbs and give Americans less choice. They say it is a perfect example of government overreach.

Now, as NPR's Elizabeth Shogren reported for us a year ago, the legislation doesn't actually ban incandescent light bulbs, it just requires that they are 30 percent more efficient.

Elizabeth reported that Randy Moorehead, vice president at Phillips Electronics, "says in anticipation of the new standards, companies like his have started selling new incandescent bulbs that comply with the law. They're made with a slightly different technology than Thomas Edison's invention. They use halogen gas. Moorhead says consumers won't notice a difference in the way they look or work compared to old-fashioned incandescent bulbs."

But politics are politics and the bill passed today strips the Department of Energy from the money it needs to enforce the new rules through Sept. 30, 2012. The Los Angeles Times reports on the tussle in Congress:

"This is an early Christmas present for all Americans," said Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas). "It restores the freedom, at least temporarily, for you to choose the light bulbs you want to illuminate your home."


"I can't believe it," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who supports the new rules. She said the Republicans who pushed to block enforcement of the rules have "become deniers ... deniers of the fact that the climate is warming."

Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas), an outspoken critic of the new rules, recently declared that "since the federal government has taken the power to choose away from Americans," consumers have been "flocking to their local Wal-Marts to hoard the last of the incandescent bulbs."

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Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.