As of Jan. 1, in America, it is now illegal to manufacture or import the traditional incandescent light bulb.
A recent study found that only 28 percent of Americans were aware of the 2007 law that unrealistically raised the minimum efficiency standards for light bulbs -- a de facto ban.
The energy landscape was different when President George W. Bush signed the "Energy Independence Security Act of 2007." Back then, there was a general belief that we were truly facing an energy shortage and that global warming was a real manmade crisis.
Faced with a new abundant energy reality, Republicans realized the error of their ways and, in 2011, attempted to repeal the efficiency standards for light bulbs. Congressman Fred Upton , R-Mich., who cosponsored the 2007 bill, stated: "The public response on this issue is a clear signal that markets -- not governments -- should be driving technological advancements." Nearly half of the Republicans who originally voted for the 2007 law, voted for the repeal of the standards in 2011. The repeal failed because, as the New York Times reported: "Democrats, despite being in the minority in the House, were able to defeat the repeal on a vote of 233 to 193 because the measure was brought up under rules that require a two-thirds majority for passage."
Democrats ridiculed the Republicans for taking "American families another step backward and voting on a bill rolling back bipartisan energy standards which will save consumers $12.5 billion when fully implemented." Minority pLeader Nancy Pelosi's blog claimed that Republicans "are up-in-arms over a provision encouraging the production of more energy efficient light bulbs." (Encouraging? They are mandated by law.)
Time magazine scoffed at the Republicans who were "defending our freedom again, this time our freedom to buy inefficient light bulbs." Michael Grunwald, the author of the Time piece, defended the efficiency standards, calling them: "a virtually pain-free way to dramatically reduce our energy dependence, our carbon emissions and our utility bills. They do involve a bit of government interference in the free market, but…" He called the Republicans' efforts: "pure political theater" because "Republicans know that it's not going to pass the Senate, and if it somehow did, President Obama would veto it."
Nearly four years after the failed repeal attempt, the attitude about government intrusion, thanks in large part to Obamacare, is much more negative. The New York Post editorial board states: "If you build a better light bulb -- at a good price -- consumers will come to it of their own accord. The fact that this has to be mandated to be successful should cause concern."
What if Americans do like the "freedom to buy inefficient light bulbs?" After all, we like the freedom to buy inefficient trucks -- with the Ford F-150 being the number one selling vehicle in America in 2013.
All this should make you wonder: "Why is the government pushing so hard on energy efficiency? Shouldn't it be a choice to buy energy efficient, albeit more expensive, light bulbs, or not?"
Under the Obama Administration we've seen many mandates for increased efficiency -- 55 mpg of gasoline and requiring microwave ovens to use less power in stand-by mode are just two examples of government controlling our choices. It is not that efficiency is wrong or bad, but as the Post editorial board posited: "The fact that this has to be mandated to be successful should cause concern."
In response to a question about light bulbs that I posted on my Facebook page, one man responded: "I switched to compact fluorescent bulbs years before because it made sense for the money I saved. Not because I was forced to." It is great that he could afford the choice. The Post states: "The average house has about 100 light bulbs. The average cost of a light bulb in 2007 when the law was passed was 25 cents meaning your house had about $25 worth of light bulbs. Today, those same light bulbs would set you back about $500."
I believe that all of the efficiency rules and regulations are to hide the increasing energy rates -- especially spiking electricity bills that are 20 percent higher than they were six years ago.
So, by mandating increased efficiency, which lowers our electricity usage, the pain of higher electricity prices is kicked, as usual, further down the road.
I posted a quick survey on my Facebook page. I asked: "When you get your utility/electric bill, do you pay attention to the kilowatt hours used or to the total dollars?" Within hours I had 118 responses, the vast majority answered dollars -- which proves my point. Most of us do not know how much electricity we are using, but we know how much we are spending. When the price goes up, but we use less, the bill remains more or less the same. We are not aware of the increase.
When it costs 10 times more for a light bulb, the pain will hit home. Consumers will be asking: "What happened to the light bulbs?" They'll be told that incandescent light bulbs have been outlawed.
As people are literally being forced to live in the dark, as Upton found, the "public response" won't be good. Like Obamacare, Republicans are on record as trying to change bad policy that takes away free choice -- and that should spell trouble for Democrats in the 2014 elections.
I like my light bulbs. Why can't I keep them?