POLITICS

Liberal insanity on light bulbs

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney

To recap the big-government-environmentalist light bulb crusade: Democrats and Republicans teamed up with Big Business lobbyists in 2007 to pass a bill that effectively outlaws the traditional incandescent, leading to mass layoffs in Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky, and forcing Americans to buy more expensive light-bulbs, which are mostly made in China.

Manufacturers were always free to make more expensive, more energy-efficient light bulbs, and consumers were always free to buy them. But now that Congress was prohibiting less-efficient bulbs -- which were far cheaper -- many manufacturers ramped up research into the more expensive and higher profit-margin light bulbs. These days, just before it becomes illegal to import regular bulbs (the law already caused all the U.S. factories to shut down) Republicans are trying to preserve consumer choice -- we should be allowed to buy whatever bulbs others are willing to sell us. The manufacturers don't like the idea of selling low-margin bulbs and they want the regulations to stay in place.

Some liberals think this GOP move is atrocious, but their arguments are so flimsy that the liberals oscillate between name-calling and obfuscating. Ground zero of liberal light-bulb insanity is this post at Climate Progress, a blog of the Center for American Progress.

In the past, CAP has tried to attack Bulb-Pro-Choicers as industry shills -- of course roping in the Kochs -- while simultaneously touting that the light-bulb industry supports the bill. Climate Progess's latest post avoids this pitfall, but repeatedly suggests that we should all like the public policy that big business likes. Examples:

CAP blogger Joe Romm calls light-bulb choice "Nightmarish for the industry" and writes: "Oh, and there was a victory for the extremist Tea Party wing of the party, which opposes all government standards, even ones that the lightbulb industry itself wants.

Romm also approvingly quotes this passage: "Blocking the standards effectively serves as a slap in the face to light bulb manufacturers, who have been working since 2007 to produce the new bulbs.

But when Romm repeatedly writes and quotes sentiments like "The only difference they’ll see is lower energy bill" he is guilty of either willful deception or utter cluelessness. What about the difference that the bulbs cost much more? That's never mentioned.

Argue that they'll pay for themselves in energy savings (unless you have kids who break lightbulbs, or if the technology isn't as good as promised) but for people on tight budgets, long-term savings at short-term cost is a luxury that's sometimes hard to afford.

But the bottom line in all of this is that nobody is preventing anyone from buying efficient bulbs. Romm and his friends at CAP are just having trouble sleeping at night fretting that someone, somewhere, is reading by the light of an incandescent bulb.

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